Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, developed from dairy cultures by Fonterra Nutrition, was shown in a previous trial to help reduce the occurrence of eczema symptoms in children by almost half when they took the probiotic up to two years of age.
Now, a follow-up study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy has shown that this reduction in symptoms continues through to four years old, even when the subjects stopped taking the probiotic half-way through the test period.
“This study adds support to the theory that the placement of beneficial bacterial cultures in the diet, through probiotics, may allow more control over infant conditions such as eczema, even after supplementation has ceased,” said Professor Julian Crane, one of the study’s authors.
He added that the findings showed that Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 has a long-term protective effect and could be an effective solution in reducing the risk of eczema development in children with a family history of allergy. Half of all cases of eczema are diagnosed before a child’s first birthday.
The research was carried out by the University of Otago’s Wellington Asthma Research Group, with funding provided by the New Zealand Health Research Council and Fonterra. Eczema affects around one in five children in New Zealand, and has reported childhood prevalence rates of up to 20.5 per cent in some countries.
“The long-term benefits shown by Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 are extremely encouraging and are particularly relevant in New Zealand, which has one of the highest incidence rates of eczema in the world,” said Dr James Dekker, a Fonterra Nutrition senior research scientist.
Dekker added that the results indicate that Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 may be able to modify the immune system early in a child’s development, to deliver long-term benefits with no discernible side-effects.
The follow-up study is part of a long-term clinical trial that started by giving probiotic bacteria or placebos to pregnant women between two and five weeks from birth. Following the birth of their infants, the mothers continued with the supplementation for up to six months, if breastfeeding, while their infants received the supplementation from birth through to two years of age.
Further research on Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 is due to be released early next year. This study will look into the probiotic’s effect after six years