Probiotics protect against cold and flu

08.31.2009

Probiotics protect against cold and flu

This recent article in Pediatrics magazine offers a compelling case for probiotics:

August 11, 2009

ST LOUIS (MD Consult) - Young children who are given probiotics prophylactically have a reduced incidence and duration of cold and influenza-like symptoms, finds a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial reported in the August 2009 issue of Pediatrics.

Investigators enrolled in the trial 326 healthy children in China aged 3 to 5 years during a winter season (November 2005 to May 2006).

The children were randomly assigned to 6 months of twice-daily dietary supplementation with placebo, 1 strain of probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM), or 2 strains of probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM plus Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis Bi-07), all administered as powders mixed into milk.

Analyses were based on 104 children in the placebo group, 110 in the 1-strain probiotic group, and 112 in the 2-strain probiotic group.

Compared with their counterparts in the placebo group, children in the 1- and 2-strain probiotic groups had significant reductions in the 6-month incidences of fever (by 53% and 73%, respectively) and coughing (by 41% and 62%, respectively).

Children in the 2-strain group also had a significant reduction in the incidence of rhinorrhea (by 59%).

Probiotic use was associated with a shortening of the total duration of fever, coughing, and rhinorrhea as well, with greater benefit again seen with the dual therapy (4.5 and 3.4 days vs 6.5 days).

In addition, relative to their peers given placebo, children given 1- or 2-strain probiotic therapy were 68% to 84% less likely to receive antibiotics and missed 28% to 32% fewer days of child care.

None of the children experienced adverse events attributed to the probiotics.

Probiotics appear to be safe and effective for averting and attenuating cold and influenza-like symptoms, with a trend toward greater benefit with 2-strain therapy, the investigators conclude.

They note that "an immune-enhancing effect is a likely explanation, because numerous studies with various probiotic bacteria have demonstrated their ability to modulate immune responses through interactions with toll-like receptors."

"The potential utility of documented probiotics as a prophylactic therapy against the onset of cold and influenza symptoms may help alleviate the need for medicinal symptom relief," they add, which is noteworthy given the recent advisory from the US Food and Drug Administration regarding the use of cough and cold medications in young children.

Pediatrics. 2009;124:e172-e179 .