Probiotics don�??t curb infections in healthy infants entering child care

Reuters Health Information: Probiotics donâ??t curb infections in healthy infants entering child care

Probiotics donâ??t curb infections in healthy infants entering child care

Last Updated: 2017-07-05

By Marilynn Larkin

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Daily administration of a probiotic combination did not protect infants in child care from infections, researchers in Denmark say.

Rikke Pilmann Laursen of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues randomly assigned 290 infants (mean age, 10 months at the time of child care enrollment; about half girls) to a placebo or a combination of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus in a dose of 109 colony forming units of each daily for six months.

Parents completed daily and weekly web-based questionnaires to document absence from child care, symptoms of illness and doctor visits. Median compliance was 97.0% in both groups, with parents in both groups completing 99% of daily questionnaires. Ninety-eight percent of parents in the probiotic group and all parents in the placebo group completed the weekly questionnaires.

About half of the infants in the probiotics group and 44% in the placebo group were breastfeeding during the study.

As reported in Pediatrics, online July 3, the median absence from child care was 11 days, with no difference between the probiotics and placebo groups.

Similarly, no differences were seen between the groups in any of the secondary outcomes: the number of children with doctor-diagnosed upper- or lower-respiratory tract infections; the number of doctor visits, antibiotic treatments, occurrences and duration of diarrhea; the number of days with common cold symptoms, fever, or vomiting; or caregivers’ absence from work.

No adverse events were associated with the study supplement.

Laursen told Reuters Health, “As pointed out in many other studies and reviews, effects of probiotics are dependent on strain and dose. But the age and general health of the infants are also important to consider.”

“The infants in our study were of generally good health, and a large proportion were still being breastfed, which has also been shown to have a protective effect on the immune system,” she said by email. “Supplementation with probiotics in order to prevent infections may not confer additional health benefits to a child population already living under good health conditions.”

Editorialist Dr. Michael Cabana of the University of California, San Francisco told Reuters Health, "Probiotic supplements in several previous studies have been shown to decrease respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections for kids in child care centers.”

“However, no intervention is 100% perfect,” he said by email, “and (this study) gives us more information on the potential limitations of probiotic supplementation.”

Like Laursen, Dr. Cabana noted, “In the setting of a population of children of whom half are still being breastfed, it may be difficult to detect the protective effects of a probiotic supplement, as the probiotic supplement's impact may be overshadowed by the known protective effects of breastfeeding."


Pediatrics 2017.

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