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Probiotics prevent atopic eczema

TURKU, FINLAND. The incidence of atopic eczema and other atopic diseases are increasing throughout the western world. Atopy is a form of allergy in which the hypersensitivity reaction may be in a region other than the region in direct contact with the offending substance. For example, ingesting a food to which one is allergic may give rise to a skin rash called atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis.

Although there is a strong genetic component in atopic eczema there is some indication that early diet (fetus and infant) can affect the risk of the disease. Researchers at the University of Turku now report that atopic eczema is substantially less prevalent in infants born to mothers who have been supplementing with probiotics. Their double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involved 62 mother-infant pairs. The mothers were randomized to receive either a placebo or a probiotic supplement (Lactobacillus rhamnosus, 10 billion units/day) for the last four weeks of pregnancy and during breast-feeding until the infant was three months old. The infants were followed for a two-year period. The researchers fond that infants born to mothers who themselves had atopic disease were four times more likely to develop chronic relapsing atopic eczema than were children born to healthy mothers. They also found that probiotics supplementation was highly effective in preventing eczema. Infants born to mothers who had supplemented had an incidence rate of only 15 per cent as compared to 47 per cent among infants born to mothers who had taken the placebo. The probiotics even reduced the risk in infants born to mothers who themselves had atopic disease. In this group infants born to supplementing mothers had an incidence rate of 25 per cent as compared to 55 per cent in the placebo group. No infants born to non-atopic mothers who took probiotics developed atopic eczema during the first two years of their life. The researchers conclude that administration of probiotics to the mother during pregnancy and breast-feeding appears to be a safe and effective mode of enhancing the immunoprotective potential of breast milk and preventing atopic eczema in the infant.
Rautava, Samuli, et al. Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Vol. 109, January 2002, pp. 119-21 (brief communication)

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