The probiotic product Symbioflor2 (DSM 17252) is a bacterial concentrate of six different Escherichia coli genotypes,
whose complete genome sequences are compared here, between each other as well as to other E. coli genomes. The genome
sequences of Symbioflor2 E. coli components contained a number of virulence-associated genes. Their presence seems to be
in conflict with a recorded history of safe use, and with the observed low frequency of adverse effects over a period of more than 6 years.
The genome sequences were used to identify unique sequences for each component, for which strain-specific hybridization probes were designed.
A colonization study was conducted whereby five volunteers were exposed to an exceptionally high single dose. The results showed that the probiotic
E. coli could be detected for 3 months or longer in their stools, and this was in particular the case for those components containing higher
numbers of virulence-associated genes. Adverse effects from this long-term colonization were absent. Thus, the presence of the identified
virulence genes does not result in a pathogenic phenotype in the genetic background of these probiotic E. coli.
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