Prebiotics for the treatment of functional constipation in children; let’s find a way out!

Functional constipation (FC) in children is a common gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. Complaints include infrequent bowel movement, painful defecation and abdominal pain, which all has a big impact on the quality of life. Prebiotic fibres have shown to relief constipation symptoms in young adults and elderly. However, sufficient evidence is lacking linking additional fibre intake to improve symptoms in children with FC. Moreover, the gut microbiota composition, which is highly influenced by dietary intake, has been correlated with various diseases and has become an important therapeutic target.

Several studies with fibres but also with faecal microbiota transplants in adults imply a role for the microbiota and modulation thereof in constipated patients. Taking both physiological and microbiota changing properties of these fibres into account, we hypothesize that representative prebiotic fibres might be able to relief symptoms of constipation in children as well. Therefore a placebo-controlled randomized double-blind trial will be conducted in children with FC of 1-3 years old. Besides that, another placebo-controlled randomized double-blind trial will be conducted in 1-3 year old healthy children.

Student projects & techniques

Within this project there are multiple possibilities for a BSc or MSc thesis or internship. This includes projects related to analyses of the gut microbiota composition, but also the practical execution of multiple clinical studies in which we will investigate the effect of prebiotics in healthy and constipated children of 1-3 years of age. Depending on the stage of all projects, you can practice experimental design setup, molecular methods such as DNA/RNA extractions, PCR and qPCR, sequencing, short-chain fatty acid analyses by HPLC. Moreover, practical execution of the study including home visits and clinical outcome analyses on e.g. quality of life questionnaires, stool diaries, dietary intake and anthropometrics are possible. Does this combination of microbiota research, clinical study execution including working with participants and data collection and analyses sound interesting to you? Send me a message with a short introduction about yourself and perhaps even first ideas.