An in vitro assay was developed to measure the ability of competitive exclusion (CE) bacteria to protect Caco-2 and CRL-2117 epithelial cells from invasion by Salmonella Typhimurium. The proposed assay is needed to expedite the development of defined-flora CE products. The average significantly protective concentration of the commercial poultry-specific CE product Preempt was 4.05 log CFU/6.41 log human Caco-2 cells and 3.71 log CFU/6.89 log CFU chicken CRL-2117 cells. Enterococcus faecalis isolated from Preempt protected CRL-2117 cells, Escherichia coli isolates protected Caco-2 cells, Lactococcus lactis and Bacteroides distasonis isolates protected both cell lines, and three species of Lactobacillus isolates failed to protect either cell line. A defined mixture of 29 strains of bacteria similar to the constituents of Preempt protected both cell lines from Salmonella invasion at a concentration of 7.83 log CFU. The constituents of the defined CE culture were separated into mixtures of obligate (8.42 log CFU) and facultative (8.49 log CFU) anaerobes, which both protected the cell lines, suggesting that both types of bacteria were equally protective. Although not a substitute for in vivo testing, the in vitro CE assay is a rapid technique for the evaluation of bacterial mixtures for potential CE products.

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