The Impact of Lactobacillus Probiotics on the Gut Microbiota in Children With Short Bowel Syndrome

J Surg Res. 2020 Jul;251:112-118.doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.01.024. Epub 2020 Mar 2.

Hannah G Piper 1, Laura A Coughlin 2, Sarah Hussain 2, Van Nguyen 2, Nandini Channabasappa 2, Andrew Y Koh 3


Author information

  • 1Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Electronic address: hannah.piper@cw.bc.ca.
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas.
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas; Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas; Department of Microbiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas.


Background: Children with short bowel syndrome (SBS) frequently struggle with malabsorption and poor growth. The intestinal microbiota plays an important role in gut function, and children with SBS have known deficiencies in some commensal gut microbes. One strategy to enhance the gut microbiota is by taking probiotics. However, the efficacy of this approach is not well established. We hypothesized that probiotic supplementation would result in increased levels of the supplemented bacteria and improved growth.

Materials and methods: Children with SBS who had weaned from parenteral nutrition but with suboptimal growth were randomized to receive probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus johnsonii) or placebo daily for 2 mo. The gut microbiota from monthly stool samples were compared between groups using 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid sequencing and quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Growth between groups was also compared. Statistical analysis was completed using Mann-Whitney, Kruskal-Wallis, and chi-square tests as appropriate.

Results: Eighteen children with SBS completed the study (n = 9 per group). There were no significant changes to the major bacterial families in either group. Median relative abundance of Lactobacillus did not differ between groups at baseline or at the end of the study (7.67 versus 13.23, P = 0.523 and 1.93 versus 15.8, P = 0.161). Median z scores for weight and length did not differ between groups at the beginning or end of the study.

Conclusions: The efficacy of daily probiotic use in children with intestinal failure is unknown. In this study, Lactobacillus probiotics did not result in a predictable change to the fecal microbiota or overall growth compared with placebo in these patients.

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