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