Supplementing kindergarten children during a cold season with a prebiotic inulin-type fructans product with shorter and longer fructan chains has been shown to reduce febrile episodes requiring medical attention and to lower the incidence of sinusitis. These beneficial effects may be connected to the specific modulation of children’s gut microbiota. By applying quantitative and qualitative microbiota analysis this study aimed at characterising the gut microbiota composition and at exploring effects of prebiotic intervention on the gut microbiota during a 24-weeks intervention and during antibiotic treatment in healthy children. The study was a randomised, placebo-controlled trial with 258 healthy children aged 3 to 6 years consuming 6 g/day prebiotic inulin-type fructans or maltodextrin. During the course of the study, faecal samples were collected and subject to targeted qPCR analysis and phylogenetic profiling by multiplexed high throughput sequencing of the prokaryotic 16S rRNA gene PCR amplicons. The microbiota composition of the cohort could be clustered into three distinct constellations (enterotypes). Prebiotic intake resulted in a selective modulation of the gut microbiota composition. Relative abundance of Bifidobacterium was significantly higher in the prebiotic group (n=104) compared to control group (n=105) and this effect was found for all three enterotypes. Antibiotic administration decreased the relative abundance of Bifidobacterium in both groups. Nonetheless, children of the prebiotic group receiving antibiotic treatment displayed significantly higher levels of Bifidobacterium than children receiving the placebo control. Prebiotic supplementation induced specific changes in the gut microbiota composition of children aged 3 to 6 years. Moreover, it attenuated antibiotic-induced disturbances in the gut microbiota composition as shown by higher relative abundance of bifidobacteria at the end of the antibiotic treatment in the prebiotic group. With the previously reported benefits on immune function, the study contributes to the evidence on the immune-modulating effects of prebiotics through gut microbiota modifications. The study was registered as NCT03241355 (https://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT03241355).
- gut microbiota