Intestinal bacteria

Most of the microbial cells that colonise the body reside in the large intestine. A large number of bacteria are excreted in human faeces and more than 99% of these bacteria are non-sporing, anerobes. Apart from these anerobic bacteria, lactobacilli and coliforms also reside in the large bowel. These bacteria syn-thesise vitamins which are required by the body: vitamins of the B complex (thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B12) and vitamin K. The production of vitamin K is of particular importance but it is deficient in the average diet and is required for normal blood clotting. Vitamin K is fat-soluble and is therefore easily absorbed in the large bowel. Other vitamins are absorbed by passive diffusion in the colon, and a small number of vitamins which have moved to the small intestine via reflux may be absorbed in this region.

Intestinal bacteria also display digestive functions. They are involved in the conversion of primary bile acids to secondary bile acids and in the deconjugation of conjugated bile acids. Colonic bacteria also convert bilirubins to colourless derivatives known as urobilinogens, which are absorbed directly into the blood. These pigments are mostly excreted in the bile but some are excreted in the urine. Urobilinogen remaining in the gut is partially reoxidised to strercobil-inogen, the reddish-brown pigment responsible for the colour of faeces.

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