Live probiotic bacteria and dietary prebiotic oligosaccharides (together termed synbiotics) are being used in infancy, but evidence of their long-term effects and safety is lacking.

Now, researchers from Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland report their effects.

First, the details.

  • Pregnant mothers carrying infants at high risk for allergy were randomly assigned to receive a mixture of 4 probiotic species or a placebo for 4 weeks before delivery.
    • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and LC705
    • Bifidobacterium breve Bb99
    • Propionibacterium freudenreichii ssp shermanii)
  • Their infants received the same probiotics with 0.8 g of galactooligosaccharides (another prebiotic), or a placebo daily for 6 months after birth.
  • Safety and growth data were collected over the first 2 years after birth.
  • Of 1018 eligible infants, 925 completed the 2-year follow-up.

And, the results.

  • Infants in both groups grew normally.
  • There were no differences in neonatal morbidity, feeding-related behaviors (such as infantile colic), or serious side effects between groups.
  • Antibiotics were prescribed less often in the synbiotic group than in the placebo group (23% vs 28%).
  • Respiratory infections occurred less frequently in the synbiotic group (3.7 vs 4.2 infections).

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Feeding synbiotics to newborn infants was safe and seemed to increase resistance to respiratory infections during the first 2 years of life.”

8/1/08 21:44 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.