Taking probiotics in pregnancy or giving them to infants doesn't prevent asthma

Taking probiotics has health benefits but preventing childhood asthma isn't one of them, shows newly published research led by medical scientists at the University of Alberta.

Meghan Azad, a Banting post-doctoral fellow in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the U of A, was the principal investigator on the findings that appeared in the British Medical Journal this week. Her team reviewed data from 20 clinical trials in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan that involved more than 4,800 children whose mothers either took probiotics during pregnancy or gave probiotics to their babies in the first year. The rate of doctor-diagnosed asthma was 11.2 per cent amoung infants who received probiotics and 10.2 per cent amoung babies who received the placebo.

"Taking probiotics had no effect on the asthma rate," said Azad, who works in the Faculty's Department of Pediatrics. "We haven't shown there's any harm in giving probiotics, but it can't really be advised as a strategy to prevent .

"That doesn't mean probiotics aren't good for other reasons. There's really good evidence that probiotics are beneficial to infants who are born pre-term and suffer from a bowel condition. There's also good evidence that probiotics might prevent eczema. Her team made another interesting finding that warrants more research: babies who received probiotics as infants or in utero had higher incidences of lower respiratory infections.

"This study identified a potential association between and lower respiratory infections," said Azad. "But more research is required to see if the two are indeed linked."

She thinks the topic of research was important because "it summarized an emerging area of research, and will help physicians make evidence-based decisions relating to prevention."

Azad's team included U of A colleagues Anita Kozyrskyj with the Faculty's Department of Pediatrics and Catherine Field with the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. Colleagues from the University of Manitoba included: Clare Ramsey, Allan Becker, Ahmed M Abou-Setta, Carol Friesen and Ryan Zarychanski.

Azad is continuing her research in this general area, examining the use of antibiotics and how it impacts the microbiota of ' guts.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Probiotics prevent diarrhoea related to antibiotic use

May 30, 2013

Probiotic supplements have the potential to prevent diarrhoea caused by antibiotics, according to a new Cochrane systematic review. The authors studied Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections in patients taking antibi ...

Early-life probiotics reduce allergies, not asthma

Aug 20, 2013

(HealthDay)—Probiotic exposure in early life may reduce total immunoglobulin E level (IgE) and protect against atopic sensitization, but does not seem to protect against asthma/wheezing, according to a ...

Can probiotics keep gastrointestinal system healthy?

Sep 17, 2013

There's convincing evidence that probiotics can be helpful in maintaining gastrointestinal health in certain situations. But like many natural approaches to maintaining health, there's been a tendency toward ...

Recommended for you

Sierra Leone faces criticism over Ebola shutdown

8 hours ago

Sierra Leone began the second day of a 72-hour nationwide shutdown aimed at containing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus on Saturday amid criticism that the action was a poorly planned publicity stunt.

Presence of peers ups health workers' hand hygiene

22 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The presence of other health care workers improves hand hygiene adherence, according to a study published in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Sierra Leone streets deserted as shutdown begins

Sep 19, 2014

Sierra Leone's normally chaotic capital resembled a ghost town on Friday as residents were confined to their homes for the start of a three-day lockdown aimed at halting the deadly Ebola epidemic.

Sierra Leone launches controversial Ebola shutdown

Sep 19, 2014

Sierra Leone on Friday launched a controversial three-day shutdown to contain the deadly spread of the Ebola virus, as the UN Security Council declared the deadly outbreak a threat to world peace.

User comments