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Probiotic Protection Against Eczema Could Extend From Infancy to Childhood

A follow-up study in this week's issue of THE LANCET highlights how probiotics given to pregnant women and babies around the time of childbirth could protect children from atopic eczema for up to four years-two years longer than previously reported.

Allergy, in the form of atopic disease, is a chronic disorder of increasing importance in more-developed countries. The hygiene hypothesis proposes that this increase is attributal to reduced bacterial exposure in early life which impedes full development of the immune system.

Marko Kalliomäki and colleagues from Turku University Central Hospital, Finland, previously reported results of a randomised trial (Lancet 2001;
357: 1076-79) which showed how consumption of the probiotic Lactobacillus GG (a probiotic which is safe at an early age and effective in the treatment of allergic inflammation and food allergy) halved the incidence of infant atopic eczema at two years of age compared with placebo.

The same group of investigators report how children who were exposed to probiotics around the time of birth were 40% less likely to develop atopic eczema at four years of age compared with children in the placebo group. As with the previous study, exposure to probiotics did not have any protective effect over asthma or rhinitis.

Marko Kalliomäki comments: "Our findings show that the preventive effect of Lactobacillus GG on atopic eczema in at-risk children extends to the age of
4 years. This age, however, does not yet allow of final assessment of any effect on respiratory allergic diseases, since these typically manifest themselves at an older age."

Contact: Dr Marko Kalliomäki, Department of Paediatrics, Turku University Central Hospital, PO Box 52, FI-20521 Turku, Finland; T) +358 2 313 0000; F)
+358 2 313 1460; E)

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