Probiotic Provides Long-Term Protection Against Childhood Eczema

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A new study shows that giving a probiotic supplement to pregnant mothers and their children significantly reduces the likelihood of the child developing eczema in the first 11 years.

When given to mothers from week 35 in pregnancy, through breastfeeding, and to the babies from birth until age two years, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus (strain HN001) cut the children's rate of developing eczema in half.

The probiotic also provided children some protection against developing asthma, hay fever, and allergies.

The research has been published in the scientific journal, Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.

The results come from a project that started in 2004 and involved 474 pregnant women in Wellington and Auckland. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups, receiving Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001) (six billion colony-forming units [cfu] daily), Bifidobacterium lactis (HN019) (nine billion CFU daily) or a placebo.

The children were followed up at ages two, four, six and now 11 years.

By age two, children taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001) had a 50% reduction in eczema compared to the placebo.

Interestingly, Bifidobacterium lactis (HN019) had no effect compared to the placebo.

Furthermore, at ages two, four, six, and 11 years, the children who received HN001 experienced less wheezing, less asthma, less hay fever, and less allergy to a skin prick test of common allergens.

The research team doesn’t yet know exactly why the Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001) protects against eczema and allergies, but suspect that the bacteria influence the developing immune system and/or modify genes that influence the skin's barrier function.

Understanding the mechanism behind the protection is an important next step.

Reference:

Kristin Wickens et al. Effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in early life on the cumulative prevalence of allergic disease to 11 years, Pediatric Allergy and Immunology (2018). DOI: 10.1111/pai.12982