How do you pronounce probiotic names?

Dr Kate Stephens PhD Food and Microbial Sciences; Gut Microbiology (University of Reading), BSc Medical Microbiology

Bacteria often have very long names, but read on to find out how to pronounce them correctly when asking for your favourite probiotic strain.

Probiotics are wonderful things, but their names are notoriously tricky to pronounce!

If you are interested in learning more about the correct pronunciation, I have compiled a helpful chart (see below). Pronunciation can be helpful when looking for specific type of bacteria genus, species or strain, as it can all get rather confusing.

Before looking at the phonetic pronunciations of bacteria, it might be helpful to explain exactly where bacteria names come from. Bacteria names are usually derived from Greek or Latin words and the species are named according to their occurrence, role, any special characteristics etc. For example, Escherichia Coli: Escherichia (straight rod) coli (from colon), and Lactobacillus lactis: Lactobacillus (bacillus from milk) lactis (milk sugar - lactose fermented).

Bacteria nomenclature (the method of naming) follows some simple rules; such as the species names always comes after the genus. So, how do we clarify genus and species? A genus is a group of related or similar organisms, and can be referred to as a 'family'. A genus contains one or more species. Examples of probiotic genera include Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

Health professionals can visit the Probiotics Database to find out more about these genera: Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. 

'Species' refers to a type of microorganism existing within a genus or family. For example, acidophilus is the name of a species within the Lactobacillus genus. Different species within the same genus (eg. acidophilus and rhamnosus) are generally considered to be more closely related to each other than species from other genera (for example acidophilus is not closely related to the infantis species in the Bifidobacteria genus). Confused? I hope not! Stay with me...

See the chart below to help explain how to pronounce our bacteria names. I hope you find it helpful.

Probiotic Genus
Spelling How Do I Say It?
Lactobacillus Lack-toe-bass-ill-us
Lactococcus Lack-toe-kok-us
Bifidobacterium Biff-idd-owe-back-tee-ree-um
Saccharomyces Sack-a-row-my-sees
Probiotic Species
Spelling  How Do I Say It?
Acidophilus  Acid-off-ill-us
Lactis Lack-tiss
Casei  Cass-eye
Bifidum Biff-idd-um
Rhamnosus Ram-no-sus
Longum Lon-gum
Infantis In-fant-iss
Breve Breev
Paracasei Para-cass-eye
Boulardii Boo-lar-dee
Spelling                                       How Do I Say It? 
Fructooligosaccharides Fruck-toe-oli-go-sack-a-rides

Everyone is unique and may have their own slightly different way of pronouncing the probiotic names, especially when it's a mouthful like the prebiotic Fructooligosaccharides! But I hope this guide helps you to twist your tongue around some of the more long-winded names.

 To find out more about prebiotics, read this article: What are prebiotics?

For more information on individual strains, healthcare practitioners can see the Probiotics Database.