Research Divisions

Functionality and Ecology of Beneficial Microorganisms (MicroHealth)

Group LeadersPrincipal InvestigatorsLocation and ContactMembersHistory of the GroupLines of ResearchNotable PublicationsProjectsPhD ThesesAwardsPatents and TrademarksNews


Dr Abelardo Margolles

Abelardo Margolles Barros

Abelardo Margolles produced his doctoral thesis at CSIC’s Instituto de Productos Lácteos de Asturias (IPLA-CSIC) between 1992 and 1997, with a study of pathogenic microorganisms in Asturian artisan cheese. After being awarded his PhD in Pharmacy by the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, from 1997 to 2000, where he studied resistance to antibiotics and cytotoxic compounds in lactic acid bacteria.


He has been a CSIC researcher since 2000 and is currently an IPLA-affiliated Research Lecturer. He has been a member of CSIC’s Food Science and Technology Commission (2008-2012), Head of IPLA-CSIC’s Dairy Product Microbiology and Biochemistry Department (2009-2012), as well as Collaborator (2012-2015) and Manager (2015-2017) at the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness’s Subdirección General de Proyectos de Investigación (Agri-Food Resources and Technology Programme; Food Science and Technology Sub-Programme). Since 2003, his research has been made possible by securing continuous competitive funding. He has been Principal Investigator on public projects for which funding has been awarded by the Spanish National RDI Plans, the Regional Research Plans of the Principado de Asturias, the European Union and CSIC. Since 2016, he has been a Scientific Investing Member of EBT Microviable Therapeutics, S.L. (CSIC spin-off).

Highlights of his scientific career include his significant contributions to knowledge about food-related microorganisms and their effects on human health, primarily in two fields: the benefits of probiotic microorganisms, particularly bifidobacteria; and interactions between intestinal microbiota and the host. As a result of his research, he has co-authored a large number of scientific articles and is co-inventor of two patents.

Patricia Ruas Madiedo

Patricia Ruas received her PhD in Biology from the Universidad de Oviedo, completing her doctoral thesis at IPLA-CSIC on methods for extending the shelf life of refrigerated milk. From the end of 1999 to 2002, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at NIZO Food Research (the Netherlands), studying the role of exopolysaccharides (EPS) from lactic acid bacteria (LAB) in the organoleptic and sensory properties of fermented milk. She returned to IPLA-CSIC in 2003, where she began a new line of research into the functionality of EPS from LAB and of human-derived bifidobacteria with probiotic potential.


In 2006, she obtained the post of CSIC Research Scientist and her first Spanish National RDI Plan project as principal investigator, for which she set up a laboratory to work on human cells, in order to study the interaction between probiotics and host. After six consecutive National Plan projects, this work continues to be regularly updated. She is currently a CSIC Senior Research Scientist and Coordinator of the RedBAL: Lactic Acid Bacteria in Food and Health (AGL2015-71923-REDT) thematic network of excellence, and has led competitively-funded international, bilateral and multilateral projects. She is the MicroHealth Group representative for the 2018-2022 Research Groups of the Principado de Asturias funding round (IDI/2018/000236). Finally, she is co-author of over 118 articles in SCI-listed journals, 21 non-SCI-listed articles and 19 book chapters, and is the leading author (source: Scopus and WOS) in scientific publications on the subject of EPS from bifidobacteria.


+34 985893420


Dr Patricia Ruas

Susana Delgado Palacio

Susana Delgado is a CSIC Research Scientist affiliated to IPLA-CSIC. She completed her PhD in Biology at the Universidad de Oviedo in 2005 with a thesis titled “Human intestinal microbiota: analysis and evolution of representative populations and identification of probiotic bacteria”. Since then, Dr Delgado’s research career has focused on analysing human microbiota – specialising in microbial ecology and dysbiosis – and conducting studies on the intestinal microbiome and its relationship to diet and health, working in collaboration with other national and international research groups, as well as medical specialists. Dr Delgado is author of over 70 SCI-listed articles, co-author of three transferred patents and founding member of the CSIC spin-off Microviable Therapeutics S.L.


+34 985893359


Dr Susana Delgado


Instituto de Productos Lácteos de Asturias (IPLA-CSIC)
Paseo río Linares s/n.
33300 Villaviciosa, Asturias, Spain.

Group Leader Contact

Telephone: +34 985893356


Name Organisation Activity Euraxess classification
Calvete de la Torre, Inés CSIC Research R1
Castro Reigía, Ana María CSIC Research R1
Delgado Palacio, Susana CSIC Research/Teaching R3
González González, Felipe CSIC Research R1
Gutiérrez Díaz, Isabel CSIC Research R2
Hevia González, Arancha CSIC Research R2
Marcos Fernández, Raquel CSIC Research R2
Margolles Barros, Abelardo CSIC Research/Teaching R4
Ruas Madiedo, Patricia CSIC Research/Teaching R4
Ruiz García, Lorena CSIC Research/Teaching R2
Sabater Sánchez, Carlos FINBA Research R2
Tamés Caunedo, Héctor CSIC Research R1

The MicroHealth research group, whose full name is “Functionality and Ecology of Beneficial Microorganisms”, was created in 2016 with the general objective of contributing to knowledge of the functions performed by the microorganisms present in the intestines and food, in relation to human health. In order to meet this overarching objective, our research work covers a range of areas, including:

  • Characterisation of dysbiosis – or modification in the composition and function – of human microbiota, which may be associated with different physiological and pathological states (immunological disorders, inflammatory bowel diseases, liver and biliary diseases, cancer, food allergies, intestinal infections, etc.)
  • Isolation and preservation of beneficial bacteria that are representative of the commensal microbiota, as well as functional and technological characterisation of strains with potential beneficial effects for use as biotherapeutic agents.
  • Generation of knowledge about mechanisms of interaction between bacteria – whether probiotic or pathogenic – and host, developing different biological models for study.
  • Studying the functionality of components of the bacterial surface, such as proteins, peptides and exopolysaccharides.
  • Exploring technological applications for bacteria and their components that can improve the properties of fermented foodstuffs.
  • Development of bioinformatic tools that are adapted to our needs and help give biological meaning to our research.
  • Translating the knowledge generated in our research group over the past few years to clinical practice, in the fields of nutrition and personalised medicine.
  • Consolidating the MicroHealth group as one of the leading groups in research on the microbiota and its relationship to health and disease.

In recent years, our group’s work has focused on developing dietary and/or nutritional strategies that use bacteria, or compounds able to modulate the microbiota profile and its activity, to help restore microbial balance and maintain health. Our strengths are rooted in our extensive experience in microbial physiology, which enables us to characterise the functional and technological properties of a wide variety of microorganisms. Another achievement we would like to highlight is the implementation of a series of techniques for conducting studies on probiotics, human microbiota and foodstuffs from a wide-ranging, ambitious perspective. The knowledge we have acquired of functional genomics and bioinformatics enables us to conduct projects on bacterial genome and complex population metagenome sequencing and functional characterisation. We have the equipment and experience necessary to perform proteomic and transcriptomic studies on microorganisms and human cells. Additionally, in order to study the interactions between bacteria, microbiota and host, we have put in place several in vitro and in vivo models, including models with immortalised cell lines, immune cells and human tissue, as well as preclinical animal models. We have also developed methods for studying the bioavailability of the nutrients and bioactive substances in food. The group takes a multidisciplinary approach to meeting its objectives, having national and international partnerships with experts in different fields, such as medical professionals from a range of specialisations, immunologists, nutritionists, chemists and bioinformatics specialists.

  1. The functionality of microorganisms and probiotic foodstuffs
  2. Interactions between intestinal microorganisms and host, and technological challenges
  3. Collection, preservation and cultivation of faecal microbiota
  4. Microbiota in different physiological and pathological states: dysbiosis, microbial disease markers and strategies for modulating microbiota
  5. Development of bioinformatic tools for studying the functionality of microbiota and probiotics.
  • Martínez N, Hidalgo-Cantabrana C, Delgado S, Margolles A, Sánchez B. 2019. Filling the gap between collection, transport and storage of the human gut microbiota. Sci Rep (in press).
  • Ruiz L, Bacigalupe R, Garcia-Carral C, Argüello H, Beatriz Silva C, Checa MA, Mira A, Rodriguez JM. 2019. Microbiota of human precolostrum and its potential role as a source of bacteria to the infant mouth. Sci Rep (in press).
  • Blanco-Míguez A, Fdez-Riverola F, Lourenço A, Sánchez B. 2019. In silico prediction reveals the existence of potential bioactive neuropeptides produced by the human gut microbiota. Food Res Int 119:221-226.
  • Castro-Bravo N, Margolles A, Wells JM, Ruas-Madiedo P. 2019. Exopolysaccharides synthesized by Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis interact with TLR4 in intestinal epithelial cells. Anaerobe 56:98-101.
  • Díaz M, Guadamuro L, Espinosa-Martos I, Mancabelli L, Jiménez S, Molinos-Norniella C, Pérez-Solis D, Milani C, Rodríguez JM, Ventura M, Bousoño C, Gueimonde M, Margolles A, Díaz JJ, Delgado S. 2018. Microbiota and derived parameters in fecal samples of infants with non-IgE cow’s milk protein allergy under a restricted diet. Nutrients 10:1481.
  • Ruiz L, Espinosa-Martos I, García-Carral C, Manzano S, McGuire MK, Meehan CL, McGuire MA, Williams JE, Foster J, Sellen DW, Kamay-Mbuthia EW, Kamundia EW, Mbugua S, Moore S, Kvist LJ, Otoo GE, Lackey KA, Flores K, Pareka RG, Bode L, Rodriguez JM. 2017. What’s normal? Immune profiling of human milk from healthy women living in different geographical and socioeconomic settings. Front Immunol 8:696.
  • Sánchez B, Delgado S, Blanco-Míguez A, Lourenço A, Gueimonde M, Margolles A. 2017. Probiotics, gut microbiota and their influence on host health and disease. Mol Nutr & Food Res 61:1600240.
  • Castro-Bravo N, Hidalgo-Cantabrana C, Rodríguez-Carvajal MA, Ruas-Madiedo P, Margolles A. 2017. Gene replacement and fluorescent labeling to study the functional role of exopolysaccharides in Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis. Front Microbiol 8:1405.
  • Motato KE, Milani C, Ventura M, Valencia FE, Ruas-Madiedo P, Delgado S. 2017. Bacterial diversity of the Colombian fermented milk “Suero Costeño” assessed by culturing and high-throughput sequencing and DGGE analysis of 16S rRNA gene amplicons. Food Microbiol 68:129-136.
  • Inturri R, Molinaro A, Di Lorenzo F, Blandino G, Tomasello B, Hidalgo-Cantabrana C, De Castro C, Ruas-Madiedo P. 2017. Chemical and biological properties of the novel exopolysaccharide produced by a probiotic strain of Bifidobacterium longum. Carbohydr Polym 174:1172-1180.
  • Blanco-Míguez A, Fdez-Riverola F, Lourenço A, Sánchez B. 2017. P4P: a peptidome-based strain-level genome comparison web tool. Nucleic Acid Research 45(W1):W265-W269.
  • Ruiz L, Hidalgo-Cantabrana C, Blanco-Míguez A, Lourenço A, Sánmz B, Margolles A. 2016. Tackling probiotic and gut microbiota functionality through proteomics. J Proteomics 147:28-39.
  • Valdés-Varela L, Alonso-Guervos M, García-Suárez O, Gueimonde M, Ruas-Madiedo P. 2016. Screening of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli able to antagonize the cytotoxic effect of Clostridium difficile upon intestinal epithelial HT29 monolayer. Front Microbiol 7:577.
  • Blanco-Míguez A, Gutiérrez-Jácome A, Fdez-Riverola F, Lourenço A, Sánchez B. 2016. A peptidome-based phylogeny pipeline reveals differential peptides at the strain level within Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis. Food Microbiol 60:137-141.
  • Hidalgo-Cantabrana C, Sánchez B, Álvarez-Martín P, López P, Martínez-Álvarez N, Delley M, Martí M, Varela E, Suárez A, Antolín M, Guarner F, Berger B, Ruas-Madiedo P, Margolles A. 2015. A single mutation in the gene responsible for the mucoid phenotype of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis confers surface and functional characteristics. Appl Environ Microbiol 81:7960-7968.
  • Hevia A, Delgado S, Margolles A, Sánchez B. 2015. Application of density gradient for the isolation of the fecal microbial stool component and the potential use thereof. Sci Rep 5:16807.
  • Valdés L, Gueimonde M, Ruas-Madiedo P. 2015. Monitoring in real time the cytotoxic effect of Clostridium difficile upon the intestinal epithelial cell line HT29. J Microbiological Methods 119:66-73.
  • Hidalgo-Cantabrana C, Sánchez B, Milani C, Ventura M, Margolles A, Ruas-Madiedo P. 2014. Genomic overview and biological functions of exopolysaccharide biosynthesis in Bifidobacterium spp. Appl Environ Microbiol 80:9-18.
  • Hevia A, Milani C, López P, Cuervo A, Arboleya S, Duranti S, Turroni F, González S, Suárez A, Gueimonde M, Ventura M, Sánchez B, Margolles A. 2014. Intestinal dysbiosis associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. MBio 5:e01548-14.
  • Leite AM, Miguel MA, Peixoto RS, Ruas-Madiedo P, Paschoalin VM, Mayo B, Delgado S. 2015. Probiotic potential of selected lactic acid bacteria strains isolated from Brazilian kefir grains. J Dairy Sci 98:3622-3632.
Principal Investigator Title Funding Body Duration Amount
Lorena Ruiz García Revalorisation of by-products from the agrifood industry with the capacity to modulate gut microbial populations: potential biotechnological and health implications MICIU (Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities) – AEI (State Research Agency) 2019-2022 €169,400
Patricia Ruas Madiedo The influence of synthesised bacterial exopolysaccharides in dairy products on the bioavailability of bioactive agents MICIU-AEI 2019-2022 €96,800
Abelardo Margolles Barros Microbiome applications for sustainable food systems through technologies and enter prise EU-H2020 2019-2023 €442,548
Patricia Ruas Madiedo Public research organisation grant to support the activity of groups conducting research in the Principado de Asturias (IDI/2018/000236) FICYT (Foundation for the Promotion of Applied Scientific Research and Technology in Asturias) 2018-2020 €156,750
Borja Sánchez GarcíaAbelardo Margolles Barros New methods for cultivating and characterising next-generation probiotics with a potential application for inflammatory bowel disease MINECO 2017-2019 €278,300
Patricia Ruas Madiedo Plant-based foodstuffs with probiotic functionality for malnourished paediatric populations MINECO 2017-2019 €85,000
Borja Sánchez García Identification of bioactive peptides against colorectal cancer on the basis of intestinal microbiomes AECC (Spanish Association Against Cancer) 2017-2019 €150,000
Patricia Ruas Madiedo The capacity of exopolysaccharide-producing and non-exopolysaccharide-producing bifidobacteria to antagonise the effect of intestinal pathogens on the host MINECO 2016-2018 €193,600
Susana Delgado Palacio The study, preservation and propagation of faecal microbiota in patients who undergo pelvic radiotherapy: towards the development of next-generation, personalised probiotics MINECO 2015-2018 €204,490
Susana Delgado Palacio Changes in the microbiota and associated bowel inflammation in children with a non-IgE-mediated allergy to cow’s milk protein after tolerance tests Instituto Danone 2016-2017 €40,000
Patricia Ruas Madiedo Development of models to study microbial interactions and host response in the gut environment CSIC I-link+2015 programme 2016-2017 €20,000
Abelardo Margolles Barros The microbiota of human bile: ecology, functionality and connection to diet and certain biliary disorders MINECO 2014-2017 €254,100
Borja Sánchez García Mechanisms of action of the human microbiome: from gene sequences to immunomodulating peptides MINECO 2014-2016 €120,000
Borja Sánchez García Analysis of significant molecules for food quality and safety MINECO 2014-2017 €40,000
Patricia Ruas Madiedo Evaluation of the technological and probiotic capacity of lactic acid bacteria isolated from Suero Costeño sour cream from the Bajo Cauca Antioquia region of Colombia CSIC (I-COOP+) international development programme 2015-2016 €17,000
Borja Sánchez García Functional genomic approaches to determining Ralstonia solanacearum phylotype IV virulence and host range EU, Marie-Curie FP7 COFUND People Programme 2014-2016 €80,000
Patricia Ruas Madiedo The role of exopolysaccharide-producing bacteria in the oral-gastrointestinal ecosystem: Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis as a model for studying the mechanism of action MINECO 2013-2015 €198,900


Supervisors Title PhD Student Organisation Year Honours
Analia LourençoBorja Sánchez New computational framework for the characterisation of next-generation probiotics targeting autoimmune and inflammatory bowel disorders Aitor Blanco Míguez Universidad de Vigo 2019
Susana DelgadoBaltasar Mayo Soya isoflavones and microbial bowel populations : identification and characterisation of microorganisms involved in their metabolism Lucía Guadamuro García Universidad de Oviedo 2017 European Honours
Miguel GueimondePatricia Ruas

Mercedes López

Probiotics and prebiotics for specific use in old age Lorena Valdés Valera Universidad de León 2016
Borja SánchezAbelardo Margolles Functional characterisation of the intestinal microbiota in certain immunological disorders Arancha Hevia González Universidad de Oviedo 2016 Outstanding PhD Award conferred by the Universidad de Oviedo
RAMPRA (Royal Academy of Medicine of Asturias) Prize for the Best PhD Thesis submitted to the Universidad de Oviedo in the Basic Sciences section 2016
Patricia RuasAbelardo Margolles Genetic and functional analysis of exopolysaccharide-producing strains of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis Claudio Hidalgo Cantabrana Universidad de Oviedo 2015 Outstanding PhD Award conferred by the Universidad de Oviedo
  • XIV International Hippocrates Award for Medical Research into Human Nutrition – Central Lechera Asturiana (CLAS)
    Year: 2018
    Title: “Faecal microbiota and parameters in children with a non-IgE-mediated allergy to cow’s milk protein after a lactose-elimination diet”
    Authors: Susana Delgado, María Díaz, Miguel Gueimonde, Abelardo Margolles, Santiago Jiménez, Cristina Molinos, David Pérez-Solís, Carlos Bousoño, Juan José Díaz, Juan Miguel Rodríguez.
  • Device for collecting and transferring samples in anaerobiosis
    Inventors: Susana Delgado, Borja Sánchez, Claudio Hidalgo, Abelardo Margolles, José Ignacio Rodríguez.
    Application Number: PCT/ES17/070087
  • A probiotic strain of Lactobacillus reuteri with anti-Helicobacter activity, probiotic or biotherapeutic products containing it and the use thereof
    Inventors: Susana Delgado, Baltasar Mayo
    Application Number: PCT/ES2014/070666