Probiotics' positive effect on infant diarrhoea risk may be due to SCFA response: Indian study

The two probiotic strains were previously found to reduce the risk of diarrhoea. ©iStock

The beneficial effects of probiotics in reducing the risk of diarrhoea in children may in part be due to their impact on faecal short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and branched chain fatty acids (BCFAs), according to an Indian study.

Consumption of Lactobacillus paracasei Lpc-37 or Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 by children aged two to five was previously found to reduce risk for diarrhoea and fever during the rainy season in India.

Therefore, researchers wanted to assess if changes in faecal SCFAs and BCFAs could help explain the positive influence of probiotics, as well as their role on nutritional status and diarrhoea risk.

A subset of 140 children was selected, such that all children who had developed diarrhoea during the initial study were included, as well as 25 children from each intervention group who did not develop diarrhoea.

The subjects were split into three groups, and during the intervention period, each group received either a placebo (microcrystalline cellulose), Bifidobacterium lactis HN019, or Lactobacillus paracasei Lpc-37.  Faecal samples were collected and analysed at baseline, during nine-month intervention period, and after the three-month washout period.

"We observed that supplementation with L. paracasei Lpc-37 or B. lactis HN019 induced a differential response in faecal BCFAs and SCFAs, respectively, which was not observed in the placebo group. This differential metabolic response may, in part, explain the effect the probiotics had on diarrhoea and fever risk," stated the researchers.

Bacterial counts

The study found no “statistically significant difference” between male and female children in terms of faecal SCFAs and BCFAs, or Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus levels, but noted a positive correlation between the probiotic strains used in the study, as well as between total bacterial counts.

"The significant, mainly positive, correlations of total bacteria, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria with several of the SCFAs may be not surprising, as the SCFAs are produced by the intestinal microbiota," wrote the academics.

"It is, however, interesting that the SCFAs that correlate with bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are not produced by these genera, thus indicating cross-feeding and a wider influence on the intestinal microbiota activity

"The observation that SCFAs positively correlate with each other, and BCFAs likewise, might be expected. Less expected is maybe that SCFAs were not found to be correlated negatively with BCFAs. One would expect that higher production of SCFAs would be accompanied by a lower production of BCFAs and vice versa."

Reduced risk

Post-intervention, the study observed trends for higher levels of faecal acetic acid and propionic acid in children with diarrhoea in the B. lactis HN019 group. After washout, faecal propionic acid levels were higher in the group of children that had not suffered from diarrhoea.

When comparing diarrhoea and non-diarrhoea cases post-intervention, the L. paracasei Lpc-37 group was found to have higher levels of faecal iso-butyric and iso-valeric acid among children with diarrhoea.

Since SCFAs and BCFAs play a major role in intestinal health — with SCFAs in particular regulating microbiota composition and influencing colonic physiology — the study’s findings reinforced that “both probiotic strains could reduce the incidence for community acquired diarrhoea”.

 

Source: Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease

March 2017, volume 28, issue 1

“Effect of probiotic supplementation on total lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and short chain fatty acids in 2–5-year-old children”

Authors: R. Hemalatha, et al.

 

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