Probiotics Found to Help Prevent Respiratory Infection in Children - Study

Synbiotics, a combination of probiotic and prebiotic substances that work synergistically, may help prevent respiratory tract infections in children, according to a new study. The news is published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Study investigators gave pregnant mothers a mixture of four probiotic species(Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and LC705, Bifid bacterium breve Bb99, and Propionibacterium freudenreichii ssp shermanii), or a placebo for four weeks prior to childbirth. Their infants were given the same mixture, in addition to 0.8 g of galacto oligosaccharides - or placebo - up to six months of age. Follow-up included clinical examination and questionnaires to determine safety and childhood growth, performed at ages 3, 6, and 24 months.

All of the children did well. There were no safety concerns found. All of the infants grew normally, experienced no adverse events, nor did they have any digestive or other feeding related problems. Of the 1018 eligible infants included in the study, 925 completed their two-year assessment.

The study authors were able to conclude that, "Feeding synbiotics to newborn infants was safe and seemed to increase resistance to respiratory infections during the first 2 years of life. Additional in vivo studies are warranted to identify the immunologic mechanisms that produce these benefits." The incidence of respiratory infections with synbiotic use, compared to placebo was 93% vs. 97%. Symbiotic use did not decrease the incidence of middle ear infection or gastrointestinal illness.

Probiotics can also improve diarrhea in children, as noted in a review published in the October 2001 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. The current study is the second to show the usefulness of probiotics to boost respiratory immunity in children – Hattakka and colleagues reported in the June 2, 2001, issue of the BMJ that probiotic milk increased resistance to respiratory tract illnesses in children. A review that was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, January, 2007, also showed that probiotics could help prevent atopic eczema in high-risk infants.

Respiratory illnesses in children is recognized as a major health problem, resulting in multiple office visits to the family doctor and antibiotic use. Statistics show that acute respiratory infections are accountable for 75% of deaths in children.(1) Antibiotics are frequently misused to treat viral respiratory infections. Injections are uncomfortable and frightening for children, and carry risks. The potential use of synbiotics to protect children from respiratory tract illness is a worthwhile and valuable contribution toward disease prevention and maintenance.

Probiotic, Prebiotic and Synbiotic (Oh My!)

Synbiotics are a combination of prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotic is a more widely known term; probiotics increase “good” bacteria in the intestine as long as they are regularly ingested. Prebiotics are relatively unknown, due to universal marketing of probiotics by yogurt manufacturers. Prebiotics are defined as non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improve host health (Gibson and Roberfroid, 1995).

Probiotic foods have been used for centuries. Fermented foods include tempeh, miso, soy beverages, and cultured milk products.

Adults can also benefit from probiotic use. Incorporate beneficial foods into your diet. You can learn about the history of probiotics by following this link.