Intestinal Microbial Composition of Children in a Randomized Controlled Trial of Probiotics to Treat Acute Gastroenteritis.

Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology. 2022;12:883163
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During the first few years of life the diversity of the gut microbiome increases with increasing age. Many factors influence the colonisation after birth and during infancy. There are some studies that have looked at the use of probiotics as a treatment for gastrointestinal distresses in children with some success. These studies however focus on the outcome. They do not consider the differences in gut microbiota in children and do not look at individual responses to probiotics. The purpose of this randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial was to understand the effect of a probiotic treatment on children under 4 years old admitted to the emergency department of hospital with acute diarrhea. 70 children were included (30 in the probiotic group, 32 placebo). Stool analyses were done on admission (day 0), then 5 days after administration of a probiotic or placebo and then again at day 28. The results showed that participants younger than 1 year had lower bacterial diversity than older children. The age of the child is a dominant factor in determining the overall diversity of the gut microbiome. Probiotic treatment for 5 days did not alter the composition of the gut microbiota. However, there was lower diversity in the presence of enteric bacterial pathogens; in particular, with C. difficile in stool samples. This study highlights that base line measurements should be included and that age is a key factor when designing future studies of this kind.


UNLABELLED Compositional analysis of the intestinal microbiome in pre-schoolers is understudied. Effects of probiotics on the gut microbiota were evaluated in children under 4-years-old presenting to an emergency department with acute gastroenteritis. Included were 70 study participants (n=32 placebo, n=38 probiotics) with stool specimens at baseline (day 0), day 5, and after a washout period (day 28). Microbiota composition and deduced functions were profiled using 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing and predictive metagenomics, respectively. Probiotics were detected at day 5 of administration but otherwise had no discernable effects, whereas detection of bacterial infection (P<0.001) and participant age (P<0.001) had the largest effects on microbiota composition, microbial diversity, and deduced bacterial functions. Participants under 1 year had lower bacterial diversity than older aged pre-schoolers; compositional changes of individual bacterial taxa were associated with maturation of the gut microbiota. Advances in age were associated with differences in gut microbiota composition and deduced microbial functions, which have the potential to impact health later in life. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION, identifier: NCT01853124.

Lifestyle medicine

Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Gut microbiome
Environmental Inputs : Microorganisms
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Environment
Functional Laboratory Testing : Stool

Methodological quality

Jadad score : 4
Allocation concealment : Not applicable


Nutrition Evidence keywords : Stool test