Pre, Pro, Synbiotics

Synbiotics and the risk of common winter diseases in kids

Daily supplementation with a synbiotic preparation lowered this risk, according to researchers at Universita di Roma Tor Vergata, in Italy.

First, the details.

  • 135 young school-age children were assigned to a treatment groups and studied for 3 months during winter.
    • Daily treatment with a synbiotic preparation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052, Bifidobacterium infantis R0033, Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071, and fructooligosaccharide)
    • Placebo
  • Participants were healthy but had suffered from at least 3 episodes of ear, nose and throat (ENT), respiratory tract, or gastrointestinal illness the previous winter.
  • All health-related events were recorded by parents in a diary and checked by the researchers during monthly visits.
  • The percentage of children free of any episode during the study was recorded.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • At least 1 illness episode was reported in 32 children in the synbiotic group vs 50 in the placebo group — a significant 25% risk reduction.
  • This difference was due to a significant decrease in the number of children who suffered from at least 1 ENT, respiratory tract or gastrointestinal disorder with the synbiotic vs placebo.
  • At least 1 missed school day due to sickness was noted in 26% of children with the synbiotic vs 43% with placebo — a significant difference.
  • No side effects due to treatment were detected in either group.

The bottom line?

“This study suggests,” say the authors, “that a 3-month supplementation with this synbiotic preparation can decrease the risk of occurrence of common infectious diseases in children and limits the risk of school day loss.”

The results differ from a meta-analysis, which reported that respiratory tract infections do not appear to be influenced by prophylactic administration of probiotics, although probiotics might have a beneficial role in reducing the severity and duration of subsequent respiratory tract infections.

A primer on pre, pro, and synbiotics is here.

11/2/10 22:39 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.