Will prebiotics help infant eczema?


Researchers in Milan and in Friedrichsdorf in Germany have just completed a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, prospective study on full-term infants who were at risk for developing atopy/allergy. (At-risk infants were defined as those with at least one parent with a documented allergic disease.)

They wanted to discover whether adding a prebiotic mixture of galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) to their feed over a six- month period would reduce their chances of developing atopic dermatitis (eczema).192 infants took part in the trial, 94 being given the prebiotics, 98 a placebo of maltodextrine.

At the ages of three and six months all the infants were examined for atopic dermatitis, 44 of the prop-biotic group and 44 of the placebo group also provided stool samples.

At the end of the six -month period, 10 infants in the prebiotic group (10.6 %) and 22 (22.5 %) in the placebo group had clinical evidence of atopic dermatitis - a statistically significant difference. Moreover, the faecal counts of bifidobacteria (although not of lactobacilli) were also significantly greater in the prebiotic group.

The researchers suggest that this work shows that prebiotics, taken in the first months of life, can have an immune modulating effect - and reduce the incidence of eczema in at- risk infants.

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First Published in July 2006

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