B. infantis probiotic alters babies' bowel habits for the better

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/patrisyu
© iStock/patrisyu

Related tags Breastfeeding

Evolve BioSystems has announced results of a study that shows its strain of B. infantis probiotic is safe to give to infants and significantly alters their microbiomes and bowel habits.

Evolve is a spinoff from the Foods for Health Institute at the University of California, Davis. The company’s products are based on a decade of research into the developing infant microbiome and its relationship with the natural nutrients in human breast milk.

Importance of microorganism

The research focuses on Bifidobacterium infantis,​ which is passed from mother to baby during vaginal birth, explaining why babies delivered via C-section are not exposed. Meanwhile, breastmilk contains human milk oligosaccharides (prebiotics) that provide food for the B. infantis​ in the baby’s gut and help it flourish, explaining why the gut microbiome of formula-fed babies are also less likely to contain B. infantis​.  The importance of this microbe in infants is becoming increasingly recognized.  A paper published by another group at Davis noted that infants in Bangladesh with the most B. infantis in their stools had better weight gain, increased thymic index, and better responses to the oral polio, tuberculosis, and tetanus vaccines.

Evolve CEO David Kyle said B.infantis​ has just about disappeared from wide swaths of the microbiomes of infants across the developing world.  But in less developed regions, where breastfeeding is the first (or only) choice and C-sections are rare or unavailable, the microorganism is still quite common.  Even in the developed world, when a mother delivers vaginally, she may have no B. infantis to donate to her child if she has undergone several antibiotic treatments in her life.

“In vaginal delivery the baby’s head is squeezed onto the mother’s rectum andgets some of the mothers poop and thats how this transfer happens and it has happened that way for the last 5 million years,​ Kyle told NutraIngredients-USA. Kyle said B. infantis​ subsides in prevalence markedly after breastfeeding ceases, but is still present to a small degree in an unaltered mother’s gut.  But finding an unaltered gut in the developed world can be quite a feat.

On the average those moms have had at least several courses of antibiotics in their lifetime, and this organism is very sensitive to antibiotics,​he said.

Study details

In the study, the researchers recruited new mothers from the general Davis area and provided them with lactation support.  Half of the 68 mothers also received sachets of Evolve’s activated B. infantis EVC001. 

The trial showed that the intervention was safe and well tolerated and the probiotic colonized well, which Kyle said was not a surprise, given the fact that the organism is typically present in high numbers in infants’ guts.  What was surprising was how much the treatment shifted the bowel habits of the infants in the treatment group, who averaged 1.8 bowel movements a day, as opposed to more than four in the control group that received only breastmilk. And the consistency of the stools was characterized as ‘soft,’ instead of ‘watery’ for the control group, which Kyle said indicated that the treated infants’ guts were maturing at a much more rapid rate and did not display the intestinal ‘dysbiosis’ characteristic of the control group.

Source:​ BMC Pediatrics
Safety and tolerability of Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis EVC001 supplementation in healthy term breastfed infants: a phase I clinical trial
Published May 30, 2017 DOI: 10.1186/s12887-017-0886-9
Authors: Smilowitz JT, Moya J, Breck MA, et al.

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