Teadmiste spiraal. Sajand inimese mikroobiökoloogiat Tartu Ülikoolis. A Spiral of Knowledge. A Century of Human Microbial Ecology at the University of Tartu


  • Marika Mikelsaar




The possibility of controlling devastating infectious diseases through the application of beneficial bacteria has been an important challenge throughout centuries. Lactobacilli of human origin serve as the first candidates that could help in achieving this goal according to the ideas of the 20th century Russian scientist I. I. Metsnikof. The researchers of the University of Tartu (UT) have elaborated upon several theoretical approaches and studied probiotic preparations of beneficial bacteria to control the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal infections but also human metabolism and health markers to prevent the development of atherosclerotic lesions. In the 1960s the first three personalized and patented Lactobacillus sp. probiotic strains were administered to Russian astronauts to alleviate dysbacteriosis during long stressful space flights. As of 1992, approximately 15 members of the group of microbial ecology achieved PhD degrees owing to investigating healthy and diseased microbiota. Worldwide recognition has been obtained by deciphering some problems connected to gastrointestinal infections, allergies and lipid metabolism. In 2001 the group succeeded in creating the antimicrobial and antioxidative
strain of Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 DSM14241. With systemic studies, the strain was elaborated into a probiotic and patented in Estonia, Russia, the US and EU. The double-antioxidative and antimicrobial effects of the L. fermentum ME-3 strain have been shown by more than 40 publications. Besides Estonia, it has been licenced for dairy enterprises and food supplement companies in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, Belgium, France, the US and Australia. The UT collection of human lactobacilli (HUMB.ee) has been used in research for the development of novel functional food and feed preservatives together with two research and development centres in the framework of the Estonian Biotechnology program.
The principles discovered with basic microbial ecology will hopefully help us create innovative healthy products!


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