By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Professor Marika Mikelsaar, M.D., Ph.D., a professor emeritus in the department of microbiology at the University of Tartu, is credited with the discovery of Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3.
Professor Mikelsaar and her team of scientists in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Tartu were highly qualified to study the properties of ME-3 due to their years of research on Lactobacillus bacteria and the ecology of the human gastrointestinal tract. In fact, for over 20 years, Professor Mikelsaar and her colleagues worked with the Russian Space Program studying the effects that space flight had on the intestinal bacteria of astronauts.
Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 was isolated from the intestinal tract of a healthy 1-year old Estonian child on March 2, 1995. At the time, the scientists at Tartu were testing a wide range of Lactobacillus bacteria for antioxidant activity. While most strains failed one strain exhibited extremely high antioxidant properties. That strain was ME-3.
The University of Tartu is located in Estonia, which is a small country of 1.3 million people located in Eastern Europe and borders on Russia. King Gustavo’s Adolphus of Sweden founded the University of Tartu in 1632, which makes it one of the oldest universities in the world.
The University of Tartu has also rated as one of the top universities in the world academically. In 2016, U. of Tartu was ranked in the top 2% of universities in the world (347th out of over 16,000 universities worldwide), and it is in the top 1% of the world’s most cited universities in 10 scientific areas of research.
Professor Mikelsaar is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in the fields of medical microbiology, human microbial ecology, and biomedicine. In 2007, Professor Mikelsaar received the European Union (EU) award as “European Union Woman Inventor and Innovator” for the discovery of L. fermentum ME-3.