Beyond the age of three, however, no differences in the incidence or severity of eczema were recorded between the intervention and placebo groups, 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, published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, used Winclove Bio Industries’ Ecologic Panda mixture containing one billion colony forming units (CFU) of each Bifidobacterium bifidum W23, Bifidobacterium lactis W52 (previously classified as Bifidobacterium infantis), and Lactococcus lactis W58.
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 per cent 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 strain 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 per cent lower in the intervention group compared with placebo during the first three months of life, after which the incidence of eczema was similar between the groups.
“The results of this study suggest that primary prevention of eczema by perinatal administration of probiotic bacteria indeed involves modulation of the early colonization of the intestinal microbiota, which may result in modulating the development and maturation of the infants’ immune system,” wrote the researchers.
Furthermore, faecal samples from the infants showed a higher colonisaiton by Lc. Lactis, they added.
After three months of life, however, no difference in the incidence or severity of eczema was recorded between the groups.
According to the FAO/WHO, probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host".
Source: Allergy Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.02021.x“The effects of selected probiotic strains on the development of eczema (the PandA study)” Authors: L. Niers, R. Martín, G. Rijkers, F. Sengers, H. Timmerman, N. van Uden, H. Smidt, J. Kimpen, M. Hoekstra