These findings suggest that bacteria found in probiotic milk, which colonize the intestine and stimulate antibody production, may help prevent common infections, particularly in high-risk children.
Over a 7-month winter period, 571 children attending day care centers in Helsinki, Finland received milk with or without the probiotic bacteria strain Lactobacillus GG.
During the study, parents recorded any respiratory symptoms (fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, chest wheezes, and earache) and gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ache). They also recorded absences from the day care center.
|Children receiving probiotic milk had fewer days of absence due to illness.|
Although there were no significant differences between the groups in the number of days with respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, the actual number of days with symptoms was lower in the Lactobacillus group.
Children in the Lactobacillus group also had fewer days of absence because of illness and required less antibiotic treatment.
Professor Christine Wanke, of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, USA, writes that although encouraging, the researchers do not yet have a final answer on whether probiotics are sufficiently effective in preventing common childhood diseases that they can be routinely recommended.
"However, the accumulating data suggest that these organisms may help prevent both respiratory and diarrheal diseases in children at increased risk of such infections, such as those in day care facilities or living in developing countries," she concludes.