In an aseptic microbiological assay of folate compounds and their breakdown compounds, using Lactobacillus casei, Streptococcus faecalis, and Pediococcus cerevisiae, 4a-hydroxy-5methyl-4,5,6,7-tetrahydrofolate and 5-methyl-5,8-dihydrofolate were inactive under all conditions to all three organisms and 5-methyl-5,6-dihydrofolate was inactive unless ascorbate was present in the incubation medium, and then only to L. casei. 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate was active only for L. casei, and activity in purified samples to S. faecalis was due to trace amounts of folic acid. Analysis of S. faecalis values in the serum in normal subjects and in patients with various disorders showed that levels of 10-formyltetrahydrofolate are raised in coeliac disease, leukaemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia. 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate is readily absorbed by normal human subjects and by patients with pernicious anaemia but poorly absorbed by patients with coeliac disease or leukaemia. 5-Methyl-5,6-dihydrofolate was quickly absorbed by normal human subjects, being reflected by a considerably raised level of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate in serum when sodium bicarbonate was given by mouth before the 5-methyl-5,6-dihydrofolate. These higher levels were comparable to those in patients with pernicious anaemia after oral administration of 5-methyl-5,6-dihydrofolate. Oral 5-methyl-5,8-dihydrofolate and 4a-hydroxy-5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate did not appear as microbiologically active folates in the serum. The findings of this study suggest that the availability for biological utilisation of the major dietary folate compounds will depend on the amount of gastric acidity and of ascorbate in the intestinal chyme. Many may be unavailable for metabolic utilization in the body.
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