Probiotics decreased colic, and irritability, and constipation

The onset of gastrointestinal disorders can be reduced if an infant is given a probiotic during the first 3 months of life, according to recent study findings published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Flavia Indrio, MD, of the department of pediatrics at Aldo Moro University of Bari, Italy, and colleagues randomly assigned 589 infants (younger than 1 week) to placebo or Lactobacillus reuteriDSM 17938 (intervention group) for 90 days to determine whether probiotics during the first 3 months of life would reduce the onset of colic, gastroesophageal reflux and constipation in term newborns. Researchers also examined whether probiotics would reduce the associated costs from these conditions.

After 1 month, the intervention group showed a decrease in crying time and an increase in evacuation frequency compared with the placebo group. However, there was no difference in regurgitation compared with the placebo group. At the end of the study, the intervention group showed significant decreases in crying time, increased evacuation frequency and decreased regurgitation frequency compared with the placebo group.

The intervention group also had fewer pediatric ED visits, lost parental working days, and use of agents to promote gastrointestinal comfort compared with the placebo group.

The intervention group had a mean savings per participant of $118.71 per family.

“Driving a change of colonization during the first weeks of life through giving lactobacilli may promote an improvement in intestinal permeability; visceral sensitivity and mast cell density and probiotic administration may represent a new strategy for preventing these conditions, at least in predisposed children,” the researchers wrote.

In an accompanying editorial, Bruno P. Chumpitazi, MD, MPH, and Robert J. Shulman, MD, both of Texas Children’s Hospital, wrote that although no adverse events were reported, it is unclear how probiotics effect long-term health.

“Given the potential role of the gut microbiome in a number of disorders (eg, obesity) and its ability to influence brain function as already outlined, their clinical use should be guided by well-done clinical studies,” they wrote. “Ideally, participants should be re-examined several years after treatment to assess for potential long-term health consequences.”

For more information:

Chumpitazi BP. JAMA Pediatr.2014;doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.5002.

Indrio F. JAMA Pediatr.2014;doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4367.