Academic Editor: Yasuhito Shimada
Background: Cheese microbiome plays a key role in determining the organoleptic and physico-chemical properties and may be also used as an authenticity tool for distinguishing probiotic cultures. Due to significant reduction of cell viability often witnessed during food production processes and storage, immobilization is proposed to ascertain high probiotic cell loads required to confer the potential health benefits. Hence, the aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of free or immobilized Lactiplantibacillus plantarum T571 on whey protein on feta cheese microbiome. Methods: Next-Generation Sequencing technology was used to investigate cheese microbiome. Cheese samples containing free or immobilized Lactiplantibacillus plantarum T571 (a wild type strain isolated from Feta cheese brine) on whey protein, along with products containing commercial starter culture, were analyzed. Results: The results showed a great diversity of bacteria and fungi genera among the samples. An increased presence of Lactobacillus OTUs in cheese with immobilized cells on whey protein was witnessed, highlighting the survival of the strain in the final product. The immobilized culture had also a significant impact on other genera, such as Lactococcus, Leuconostoc and Debaryomyces, which are associated with improved technological characteristics and health benefits. Conclusions: Enrichment of feta cheese with immobilized potential probiotics to secure cell viability consists of an industrial challenge and leads to distinct microbiome composition that may be used as a valuable food authenticity tool.