Web Zap*Germs Archive

August 26, 2004

Probiotic Bacteria Relieves Kids' Eczema

Allergist Susan Prescott at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth, Australia reports on research testing probiotic bacteria against allergic conditions. Prescott discovered that 92% of a group of toddlers, aged six to 18 months, fed a probiotic supplement got relief from their eczema -- the itchy, scaly skin rash (that often is classified as "atopic," i.e., the doctors have no idea what's causing it).

Prescott's study confirms the results of a study described in 2000 by Dr. Erika Isolauri of Finland, who found dramatic improvements in infants' eczema when they were fed Lactobacillus GG or Bifidobacterium lactis probiotic bacteria.

The final graf in this report on Prescott's study reads:
Doctors hypothesise the rise [in childhood development of allergies that include eczema, hay fever and asthma] may be due to a decline in exposure to bacteria believed to be necessary to develop healthy immune systems.

In other words, everyday living conditions in the so-called civilized world have become so sanitary (e.g., no dirt-floored McMansions) that we no longer have to fight off, at an early age, many of the bacteria and viruses that earlier generations did. Of course, those earlier generations suffered a higher loss of life than we do today. So, it seems that many more people may survive to adulthood, but live with allergies ranging from mild to serious.

The good news appears to be that feeding little kids probiotic bacteria may help ward off these lifelong allergies, by stimulating the immune system toward maturity -- while also contributing to a healthy balance of intestinal flora.

Update 06 May 2005: A new, six-year study in the UK will attempt to learn more about the power of probiotic bacteria to reduce asthma, eczema and other allergies in newborns and toddlers.


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