On the other hand, simply providing the probiotic supplementation to the infants after they are born showed no significant effect.
Writing in Nutrients, researchers from Central South University, China, conducted a meta-analysis on nine studies which studied the prevalence of eczema in 2,093 infants.
The nine studies explored how probiotic supplementation in pregnant women and/or breastfeeding mothers and/or infants under three-year-old could reduce the risk of the infants from developing eczema.
Out of the nine studies, two involved supplementations in infants, while seven involved supplementation in the mothers during their pregnancy or a few months after they gave birth.
Findings showed that pregnant women taking both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium had less risk of eczema in their offspring.
Where there was the use of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the prevalence of eczema was lower than that of infants from the placebo group.
Out of the 1,051 infants from the probiotic group, 239 developed eczema, while out of the 1,042 infants from the placebo group, 359 developed eczema.
The preventive effect of probiotics was also seen in infants regardless of their family history.
However, it should be noted that this benefit was not seen when the combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosusGG (LGG) and Bifidobacterium longum was taken.
Timing is important
Supplementation of the probiotics during early pregnancy could significantly lower the risk of eczema from developing in infants, while providing the supplementation to the infants did not significantly reduce the risk.
In mothers who took the supplements during pregnancy, the was a significant effect on reducing the occurrence of eczema in infants, with p less than 0.001.
In contrast, supplementation in infants did not produce significant result, with p higher than 0.05 at 0.29.
The researchers believe that this is because pregnancy is a critical period for the infants’ development of their microbiome.
“We speculate that this result may be due to pregnancy being a critical period for determining and forming intestinal microbes in infants.
“Taking probiotic mixtures during pregnancy had a stronger effect on regulating host immunity in the early stage of life,” said the researchers.
However, they also cautioned that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that probiotic supplementation in infants would not be beneficial.
This is because out of the nine studies assessed in the meta-analysis, only two looked at probiotic supplementation in infants.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium supplementation was useful in reducing the risk of eczema, since these are the two key bacteria present in lower numbers in infants with eczema, the researchers said.
Citing existing evidence, they said that Clostridium was significantly increased in children with allergies, while Enterococcus and Lactobacillus were reduced.
For children with eczema, the number of infections causing bacteria and germ, namely Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, was present in higher numbers in their intestines, while the number of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in their intestines was lower.
This is different from healthy children, where their intestinal flora is dominated by Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
“This may be the reason why Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium mixed strains can prevent allergic eczema in children. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are also recommended internationally to treat children with allergic eczema,” the researchers said.
The research was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of the Hunan Province.
Can Mixed Strains of Lactobacillus and BifidobacteriumReduce Eczema in Infants under Three Years of Age? A Meta-Analysis
Authors: Qian Lin and et al