Akkermansia muciniphila is considered the "next-generation beneficial microbe." It was discovered in 2004, and since then, research has been ongoing to determine its role in health and disease. This article will overview recent studies on Akkermansia muciniphila and its relevance to human health.
Akkermansia muciniphila, a bacterium, constitutes 3% of all gut bacteria.
Akkermansia muciniphila helps maintain gut health by enhancing healthy mucin breakdown and reproduction, which contributes to a healthy gut barrier against harmful microorganisms.
Research suggests that Akkermansia muciniphila may have beneficial effects on obesity, metabolic diseases, inflammatory bowel diseases, atherosclerosis, neurological diseases, and cancer.
Pasteurized Akkermansia muciniphila is approved as a safe novel food supplement. There are products containing live or pasteurized forms, and the overall efficiency of one over the other is still debatable.
Although research suggests potential benefits, more research, including clinical trials, is needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of Akkermansia muciniphila for widespread use.
What is Akkermansia muciniphila?
Akkermansia muciniphila, a bacterium, is a part of the normal human gut microbiome, constituting 3% of all. It has different genetic variants or subgroups with specific metabolic traits.
How A. muciniphila works: Balance is important
A. muciniphila produces mucolytic enzymes, breaking mucin into carbon, nitrogen, and energy.
Mucin is a type of protein found in mucus. It not only provides physical protection by working against pathogen invasion, toxins, and physical damage but also regulates the passage of water, ions, and immune regulators within the gut. That's why regulation of mucin degradation is important for maintaining gut health.
When mucin is degraded by A. muciniphila, new mucin production is enhanced; therefore, the gut's barrier becomes stronger against harmful microorganisms and compounds. However, there is a balance. If mucin degradation by the bacteria becomes excessive, susceptibility to pathogens and bowel diseases may be induced.
Target diseases of A. muciniphila
Beneficial effects of A. muciniphila have been shown in metabolic diseases, inflammatory bowel diseases, atherosclerosis, neurological diseases, and cancer by mainly cell culture and animal studies. However, research primarily focuses on A. muciniphila's potential in mitigating obesity and metabolic disorders.
Can A. muciniphila be the probiotic for metabolic diseases?
A next-generation probiotic, A. muciniphila, holds promise in preventing and improving obesity and metabolic diseases.
Some studies have shown that A. muciniphila abundance decreases in cases of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, a negative correlation was found between fat mass and glucose intolerance with the abundance of this bacterium.
A 2019 study, the first human study of A. muciniphila supplementation, investigated the safety and metabolic effects of A. muciniphila supplementation in insulin‐resistant subjects who were overweight or obese. Forty participants received either a placebo or 10 billion cells of live bacteria or 10 billion cells of pasteurized bacteria each day for 3 months.
Participants given pasteurized A. muciniphila showed significantly improved insulin sensitivity, insulinemia, and plasma total cholesterol.
No significant difference was reported in the frequency of adverse effects, including nausea, bloating, flatulence, and gastro-oesophageal reflux.
Then in a 2020 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, two different probiotic formulations ( WBF-010 and WBF-011) were given to patients with type 2 diabetes. Patients were randomly assigned placebo, WBF-010, or WBF-011 (containing A. muciniphila) twice a day for 12 weeks. The only difference between probiotic formulations of WBF-010 or WBF-011 was A. muciniphila.
Both WBF-011 and WBF-010 were found to be safe, and no tolerability issues were reported in the study. The WBF-011 group showed improved glucose control and glycated hemoglobin (A1c) after meals.
However, these studies have limitations such as the low number of participants, low dose of the supplement, and short intervention duration.
Inflammatory bowel diseases
Chronic intestinal inflammation can damage the gut barrier, resulting in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritated bowel syndrome. A. muciniphila has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties in the gut by improving the integrity of the mucosal barrier and modulating the immune response. However, careful evaluation is a must, as some evidence shows that A. muciniphila can worsen infection and lead to the development of colitis.
A. muciniphila may positively impact neurological health by influencing the gut-brain axis. Some studies indicate that it can reduce neuroinflammation and improve mood and cognitive function, potentially benefiting conditions like depression and Alzheimer's disease. However, some studies show potential negative effects of A. muciniphila, such as an increase in intestinal hyperpermeability (leaky gut), inflammation of glial cells, and endotoxemia (presence of bacterial toxins in the bloodstream).
Research suggests that A. muciniphila may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease. It has been shown to decrease the buildup of plaques in arteries by reducing inflammation and improving lipid metabolism.
While more research is needed, A. muciniphila has shown promise in its ability to enhance the immune response and inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells. It may play a role in cancer prevention and therapy; however, further studies are required to establish its safety and efficacy, as excessive mucus degradation can counteract these benefits by increasing the risk of infection and influencing tumor growth.
Is A. muciniphila safe?
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved the utilization of pasteurized Akkermansia muciniphila as a safe novel food, which allows the commercialization of Akkermansia muciniphila as a food supplement.
The EFSA Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens (NDA) indicated the daily dose as 3.4 billion cells for adults, excluding pregnant and breastfeeding women, making it safe to consume without experiencing any known adverse effects. However, the number of live bacteria in these novel foods should be less than 10 colony forming units (CFUs) per gram, meaning the concentration of microorganisms is limited to ensure their safety.
Paraprobiotic or probiotic: Which A. muciniphila form is effective?
There are products containing live or pasteurized A. muciniphila. Pasteurized forms of bacterial supplements (paraprobiotics) are getting noticed since they carry a lower infection risk than live bacteria.
A study compared the potency of live and pasteurized A. muciniphila on glucose and lipid metabolism in high-fat diet-fed obese mouse models. The results concluded that the therapeutic potency of pasteurized A. muciniphila was not different from live A. muciniphila.
Since other research indicated that pasteurized A. muciniphila was more efficient, the overall efficiency over one another is still debatable.
Is the evidence enough for widespread use?
Although pre-clinical research has shown promising results regarding A. muciniphila's effects on obesity, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and other metabolic diseases, further research is essential to validate these findings. Since only a small number of studies provide human data, more clinical trials are needed to confirm its safe use, effective dosage, and duration of use.
- Nature Medicine. Supplementation with Akkermansia muciniphila in overweight and obese human volunteers: a proof-of-concept exploratory study.
- Emerging Technologies, Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Improvements to postprandial glucose control in subjects with type 2 diabetes: a multicenter, double blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial of a novel probiotic formulation.
- European Food Safety Authority – EFSA. Safety of pasteurised Akkermansia muciniphila as a novel food pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283.
- Journal of Applied Toxicology. Toxicological safety evaluation of pasteurized Akkermansia muciniphila.
- Microorganisms. Effects of Live and Pasteurized Forms of Akkermansia from the Human Gut on Obesity and Metabolic Dysregulation.
Show all references
- Frontiers in Gastroenterology. Akkermansia muciniphila: The state of the art, 18 years after its first discovery.
- Frontiers in Microbiology. Global trends in Akkermansia muciniphila research: A bibliometric visualization.
- Life. A Critical Perspective on the Supplementation of Akkermansia muciniphila: Benefits and Harms.
- Nutrients. Role of Akkermansia in Human Diseases: From Causation to Therapeutic Properties.
- Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. Akkermansia muciniphila in neuropsychiatric disorders: friend or foe?
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Akkermansia muciniphila as a Next-Generation Probiotic in Modulating Human Metabolic Homeostasis and Disease Progression: A Role Mediated by Gut–Liver–Brain Axes?
- Frontiers in Immunology. The role of Akkermansia muciniphila in inflammatory bowel disease: Current knowledge and perspectives.
- Cell Reports. Prebiotic-Induced Anti-tumor Immunity Attenuates Tumor Growth.