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Taking a healthy bacteria supplement in late pregnancy and supplementing babies reduces the risk of developing eczema

May 11, 2009

Daily supplements of a multi-species probiotic (healthy bacteria for the intestines) food may reduce the risk of eczema by 58 per cent, according to a new study from The Netherlands. The eczema-reducing properties were sustained until the age of two, according to results of a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial with mothers and subsequently their babies with a family history of allergic disease.

The study used a mixture containing one billion colony forming units (CFU) of each Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis (previously classified as Bifidobacterium infantis), and Lactococcus lactis. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis (AD), is one of the first signs of allergy during the early days of life and is said to be due to delayed development of the immune system. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists it affects between 10 to 20% of all infants, but almost half of these kids will ‘grow out’ of eczema between the ages of five and 15.
Researchers from University Medical Center in Utrecht, Wageningen University, and Sint Antonius Hospital in Nieuwegein, recruited 157 pregnant women and randomly assigned them to receive the probiotic mixture, or placebo, for the last two weeks of pregnancy. The infants subsequently received the supplements for their first year of life.

The Dutch researchers report that parental-reported eczema was 58% lower in the supplement group compared with placebo. The study is published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.