Microorganisms belonging to the Lactobacillus
genus complex (LGC) are naturally associated or deliberately added to fermented food products and are widely used as probiotic food supplements. Moreover, these bacteria normally colonize the mouth, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and female genitourinary tract of humans. They exert multiple beneficial effects and are regarded as safe microorganisms. However, infections caused by lactobacilli, mainly endocarditis, bacteremia, and pleuropneumonia, occasionally occur. The relevance of Lactobacillus
spp. and other members of the LGC as opportunistic pathogens in humans and related risk factors and predisposing conditions are illustrated in this review article with more emphasis on the species L. rhamnosus
that has been more often involved in infection cases. The methods used to identify this species in clinical samples, to distinguish strains and to evaluate traits that can be associated to pathogenicity, as well as future perspectives for improving the identification of potentially pathogenic strains, are outlined.
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