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Probiotic use in mothers limits infant eczema

Mothers who drank milk with a probiotic supplement during and after
pregnancy were able to cut the incidence of eczema in their children
by almost half, a new study published in the British Journal of
Dermatology has shown.
The randomized, double-blind study, conducted by researchers at the
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), compared
mothers who drank one glass of probiotic milk a day to women who were
given a placebo. Use of the probiotic milk - which the mothers drank
beginning at week 36 in their pregnancy up through to three months
after birth -- reduced the incidence of eczema by 40 percent in
children up to age two, the researchers found. The study is a part of
a larger research project at the university called the Prevention of
Allergy Among Children in Trondheim, or PACT, an ongoing population-
based intervention study in Norway focused on childhood allergy.

Random sample of pregnant women

Researchers followed 415 pregnant women and their children from
pregnancy until the children were two years old. The participants were
randomly selected among pregnant women in Trondheim - and then
randomly divided into two groups, one of which was given milk with
probiotics, and the other a placebo milk. Mothers in the study did not
know whether they were given the probiotic milk or the placebo milk.

"The taste of both products was similar, and the milk was delivered in
unmarked milk cartons. This means that neither the participants in the
study or the researchers knew who had received probiotic milk or
placebo milk," says NTNU researcher Torbjørn Øien, one of the
scientists involved in the study. "We can therefore say with great
certainty that it was the probiotic bacteria alone that caused the
difference in the incidence of eczema between the two groups."

Eczema incidence lower, or less severe

The children were checked for eczema throughout the period, as well as
for asthma and allergy at age two. Afterwards, the incidence of
asthma, eczema and allergy was compared in the two groups.

"The results showed that probiotic bacteria reduced the incidence of
eczema in children up to age two years by 40 percent. And the kids in
‘probiotics group' who did have eczema, had less severe cases,"
explains Christian Kvikne Dotterud, a student in the Medical Student
Research Programme at the Department of Community Medicine at NTNU.

The study did not show any effect from the probiotic milk on asthma or
allergies, however.

More research on allergic diseases

Dotterud and his research colleagues have started a follow-up study of
the children to see if they find any preventive effect on allergic
diseases, especially asthma, when children have reached six years old.

"Our study is the first to show that certain probiotic bacteria given
to the mother during pregnancy and breast-feeding prevents eczema,"
says Dotterud.

Previous studies have shown that ingestion of some probiotics by
children may prevent eczema, but this is the first study to show a
preventative effect when the mother alone consumed the probiotics.

Via breast milk

"In Norway, there has been some skepticism about giving infants
probiotics. Therefore, it is preferable that mothers take probiotics,
not children," he said. Probiotics are generally considered safe for
healthy people.

To participate in the study mothers had to have planned to breastfeed
their children.

"We believe that probiotic bacteria affects breast milk composition in
a positive way," Dotterud said.

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