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Probiotics may protect infants from respiratory illness

30-Sep-2010

Daily supplements of a probiotic may reduce the incidence of respiratory illness for infants during their first eight months of life, says a new study.

Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland and probiotics player Chr. Hansen report that only 65 percent of infants who received daily doses ofBifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12 experienced respiratory illnesses, compared with 94 percent of infants in the control group.

The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, is said to be the first to administer the probiotics using a pacifier – with the results supporting this as an interesting delivery system for infants.

While pacifiers have been used before to deliver medicines and functional foods, most slow-release pacifiers are designed with a thick, hard base, which deliver the active ingredients via an opening in the front plate, said the researchers.

“Our soft and broad new slow-release pacifier has been developed to contain a pouch in which the food supplement tablet can be inserted. The delivery method was tested before the study began: the BB-12–xylitol tablet and the control xylitol tablet dissolved from the pouch of the pacifier both slowly and completely during 7 to 15 minutes of sucking. Thus, the probiotic tablet could be delivered in a controlled way with the new pacifier,” they added.

The wider implications of gut health

The common cold is a viral infection primarily caused by rhinoviruses. It is the most common infectious disease in humans, and responsible for about 500 million illnesses in the US every year. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the common cold and related diseases costs the US about $40 billion every year (2003, Vol. 163, pp. 487-494.).

Probiotics, alone or in combination with prebiotics, have been reported to potentially reduce the incidence of upper respiratory track infections. Indeed, we have already reported on a study from probiotic player Probi, which found that daily supplements with probiotic Lactobacillus strains may reduce the incidence of acquiring the common cold by 12 percent (European Journal of Nutrition, doi: 10.1007/s00394-010-0127-6).

According to the FAO/WHO, probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.

Study details

Led by Turku University’s Teemu Taipale, the researchers recruited 109 one-month-old infants and randomly assigned them to receive either a daily probiotic BB-12-containing tablet or placebo twice a day up until the age of eight months.

While no significant differences were observed between the probiotic and placebo groups for gastrointestinal symptoms or use of antibiotics, a significant reduction in respiratory infections was observed in the probiotic-fed infants.

“Clinical trials with larger numbers of infants are required to corroborate the aforementioned findings,” concluded the researchers.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, FirstView Article, doi: 10.1017/S0007114510003685
Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12 in reducing the risk of infections in infancy”
Authors: T. Taipale, K. Pienihakkinen, E. Isolauri, C. Larsen, E. Brockmann, P. Alanen, J. Jokela, E. Soderling