Eczema affects more than 35 million Americans and is one of the most important public health issues worldwide. This disease appears to be more common in children. A recent report from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood showed that in children aged 13 to 14 years the prevalence of eczema was 7% and in those 6 to 7 years old the prevalence was 8%1.
Can probiotics prevent eczema?
There is growing evidence suggesting a possibility to prevent eczema by changing bacterial flora in the gut through taking probiotic supplementation in childhood. Probiotics are live microorganism, when ingested in adequate amounts, can deliver health benefit mainly through the interaction with the microbacteria in the gut
Recently, a very exciting review article was published documenting the potential benefit of using probiotics to prevent eczema in infants2. The research was carried out by the Task Force of Probiotics of the Italian Society of Neonatology, where the investigator conducted a meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of oral probiotic supplementation in pregnant and/or nursing mothers and to infants younger than 3 months. A total of 17 studies that fit the criteria was selected from a total of 1091 studies on this topic.
Clinical trial showing probiotics prevent eczema?
The data from 4755 children (2381 in the probiotic group and 2374 in the control group) were analyzed. Probiotics were started during pregnancy, in which probiotics were given to infants of atopic mothers within 48 hours of delivery. The study found a 22% eczema reduction if a mixture of probiotic strains (both Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria) was given. It is interesting to note that no protective benefit was seen when a single strain, either Lactobacilli or Bifidobacteria, was given. It has been recently documented that transfer of microbia from mothers to babies begins during pregnancy. There is close immunological interaction between the mother and the fetus, which create an opportunity for the maternal microbia to affect infants’ microbial pattern in the uterus? and consequently to influence the babies immune development.
Bottom line, taking probiotics during pregnancy and early infancy has the potential to prevent eczema in kids.
- Mallol J, Crane J, von Mutius E et al. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) phase three;: a global synthesis. Allergol Immunopathol 2013;41:73-85.
- Zuccotti G, Meneghin F, Aceti A et al. Probiotics for prevention of atopic diseases in infants: systematic review and meta-analysis. Allergy. 2015;70 1356-1371.