Oxalobacter formigenes

Oxalobacter formigenes is a beneficial bacteria which is quite common in human guts. Studies conducted in several countries suggest that it is found in about half to three-quarters of humans, and is considered a symbiotic species. Symbiotic means two species, in this case bacteria and human, living together, often—but not necessarily—benefiting each member.

The genus name Oxalobacter is formed from the Greek word “oxalis,” which means “sorrel” (the leaf vegetable often cultivated for consumption), and the Latin word “bacter,” which means “rod”. Sorrell contains high levels of oxalate (a salt), which causes its distinctive sour taste. The species name Oxalobacter formigenes (pronounced “ox-ALLO-back-ter FORM-ee-jeans”) comes from the Latin “acidum formicum”—formic acid—and the Latin suffix -genes, meaning “produce”.

Oxalobacter formigenes benefits its human host by metabolizing (breaking down) oxalates in the gastrointestinal tract. If oxalates are not degraded in the gut, they can pass through to the kidneys where they may combine with calcium to form kidney stones, which are made from calcium oxalate.

The presence of Oxalobacter formigenes is associated with a 70% reduction in the risk of recurrent kidney stones.


1. Kaufman, D. W., Kelly, J. P., Curhan, G. C., Anderson, T. E., Dretler, S. P., Preminger, G. M., & Cave, D. R. (2008). Oxalobacter formigenes May Reduce the Risk of Calcium Oxalate Kidney Stones. Journal of American Society of Nephrology, 19, 1197–1203. 

2. Barnett, C., Nazzal, L., Goldfarb, D. S., & Blaser, M. J. (2015). The Presence of Oxalobacter Formigenes in the Microbiome of Healthy Young Adults. Journal of Urology, (November, in press).

3. Ivanovski, O., & Dru, T. B. (2013). A new era in the treatment of calcium oxalate stones? Kidney International, 83, 998–1000.

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