ObjectivesFour kinds of oligosaccharides were used as co-encapsulating agents to test the effect of extrusion-based microencapsulation on protection of Lactobacillus fermentum L7 against exposure to simulated gastric and intestinal juices as well as long-term refrigeration storage at 4 °C.ResultsThe combination of alginate with galacto-oligosaccharides, isomalto-oligosaccharides, fructo-oligosaccharides, and xylo-oligosaccharides, or alginate alone exhibited good properties of the beads. The diameters of the cell beads co-encapsulated with oligosaccharides and encapsulated with alginate alone were similar, in the range of 2.34–2.51 mm. However, the encapsulation yield of L. fermentum cells co-encapsulated with oligosaccharides, which was in the range of 79.52–89.75%, was significantly higher than that of cells encapsulated with alginate alone. The capsules were stable in gastric conditions and can disintegrated when exposed to intestinal conditions. Additionally, the viability of microencapsulated cells after exposure to the simulated gastric and intestinal juices as well as long-term refrigeration storage was better than that of free cells, and the viability of cells co-encapsulated with oligosaccharides was better than that of cells encapsulated with alginate alone. Furthermore, fructo-oligosaccharides used as co-encapsulating agent showed the best performance.ConclusionsMicroencapsulating L. fermentum with oligosaccharides protected cells well at a low temperature and offered effective gastrointestinal delivery of probiotics, and thus has the potential to maintain bacterial survival in probiotic products and will provide the research basis for design of effective probiotic-prebiotic combinations to maximize host benefit.