Probiotics may reduce cold and 'flu symptoms for children

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Common cold

A daily supplement of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains may reduce the incidence of cold and 'flu-like symptoms in children by 50 per cent, says a new study from Danisco.

A combination of the two strains was linked to reductions in fever incidence by 73 per cent, a reduction in the occurrence of runny noses by 59 per cent, and drop in the incidence of coughing by 62 per cent, according to findings published in Pediatrics​.

“Daily probiotic dietary supplementation during the winter months was a safe effective way to reduce episodes of fever, rhinorrhea, and cough, the cumulative duration of those symptoms, the incidence of antibiotic prescriptions, and the number of missed school days attributable to illness,”​ wrote the authors, led by Gregory Leyer from the Department of Research and Development for Danisco in Madison.

​L acidophilus NCFM alone was effective. There was, however, a trend for a broader protective effect with the combination of ​L acidophilus NCFM and ​B lactis Bi-07.”

Indeed, when L. acidophilus​ NCFM was used alone the fever incidence was cut by 53 per cent, the occurrence of runny noses was reduced by 28 per cent, and the incidence of coughing fell by 41 per cent.

According to UNICEF, a global average of 16 per cent of children under five suffer from acute respiratory infections.

Study details

Leyer and his co-workers from Tongji University (Shanghai), the University of Texas at Houston, and Sprim USA (Frisco) recruited 326 children aged between three and five in a child care centre in China.

The children were randomly assigned to one of three groups, and received twice a day for six months the single L. acidophilus​ NCFM strain, the combination of the strains, or placebo.

In addition to the reductions in the incidence in fever, coughing, and runny noses, the researchers noted a reduction in the use of antibiotics in children either of the probiotic interventions, while these children also missed fewer days of child care.

“Although the reduced incidence of antibiotic prescriptions for all indications noted in an earlier study was confirmed, this study is the first to indicate a trend toward more-significant results with a combination versus single strain preparation,”​ wrote the authors.

The duration of symptoms was also reduced in the placebo groups, with a 32 and 48 per cent decrease observed in the single strain and combination groups, respectively.

Commenting on the mechanism, the researchers said that an immune-enhancing effect was the “likely explanation, because numerous studies with various probiotic bacteria have demonstrated their ability to modulate immune responses through interactions

with toll-like receptors”​.1

Furthermore, they note that part of the rationale behind the strain choice for this study lay in the strains’ ability to stimulate cells called dendritic cells that play a role in immune systems function.

Source: Pediatrics
2009, Volume 124: e172-e179
“Probiotic Effects on Cold and Influenza-Like Symptom Incidence and Duration in Children”
Authors: G.J. Leyer, S .Li, M.E. Mubasher, C. Reifer, A.C. Ouwehand

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