Probiotics May Lessen Risk in Infants with a Family History of Atopic Dermatitis

Newborns who were given a probiotic had lower rates of atopic dermatitis and lower symptom scores, according to a new study.

Infants with a family history of atopic dermatitis (AD) may benefit from being given oral probiotics as a prophylactic against the AD and related conditions.

Investigators from the First Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical University and the 960 Hospital of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), both in China, sought to understand the potential preventative impact of the use of probiotics in infants. They recruited the parents of 396 full-term infants, and divided the enrollees into three equally sized groups. Infants in the first group (Group A) were those without a family history of AD.

Those newborns were breastfed and were not given a probiotic. The other 2 groups (Groups B and C) were made up of infants with a family history of AD. The infants in both groups were breastfed, but those in Group C were also given an orally administered probiotic.

Baseline data were recorded for all enrollees at baseline, and serum Immunoglobulin E (IgE) and Interleukin-4 (IL-4) were measured at age 3.

The data showed that infants in Group B–those with a family history of AD who were not administered a probiotic–had the highest incidence of AD at 3 months, 4-6 months, and 7-36 months). Those subjects also had the highest SCORAD symptom scores.

Enrollees in Group C fared better. They had lower rates of AD at 4-6 months and 7-36 months, and their SCORAD scores were lower at months 0-3 and 4-6. IgE and IL-4 levels were higher in children in Group B compared to infants in groups A and C at 36 months.

Corresponding author Hui Li, MD, PhD, of the 960 Hospital of the PLA, said the results align with other research suggesting that gastrointestinal function may be one factor that affects a patient’s risk of atopic diseases, such as AD.

“These observations suggest that probiotics could inhibit the high sensitivity state of the body and reduce the tendency of AD to occur, which means that probiotics might play a preventative role in the occurrence of other diseases such as allergic rhinitis and allergies asthma,” the authors said.Probiotics might play a particularly important role if administered to newborns, because those patients do not yet have fully developed immune systems or stable intestinal flora.

“The application of probiotics in early life, to intervene and improve the immune system of the newborn, is of great significance for the primary prevention of certain atopic diseases,” they wrote. “The mechanism might be related to the regulation of the expression of inflammatory factors.

The authors noted some limitations to their research. The sample size, for instance, was relatively small, and the observation period was short, at just 36 months. They said larger, longer, multi-center trials would be needed to confirm their findings.

In the meantime, the investigators said physicians should consider administering probiotics to any newborn who has a family history of AD. Even if it does not prevent the disease, they noted, it may have the effect of lessening the severity of the symptoms.

The study, “Clinical study on prevention of atopic dermatitis by oral administration of probiotics in infants,” was published online in Archives of Medical Science.