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Probiotics ease atopic dermatitis

Probiotics alleviate the extent and severity of atopic dermatitis (AD) in young children, according to the findings of investigators in Australia, who conducted a study of 53 children between 6 and 18 months old who had moderate or severe AD. The infants were given the probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum or an equivalent amount of placebo twice daily for eight weeks.

Clinical assessment was conducted at two, four, and eight weeks (the end of the intervention), with a final assessment at week 16. At the beginning of the study, most participants had used a topical corticosteroid; more than half had been exposed to antibiotics; and about half ate yogurt regularly. Most had been breastfed and had at least one parent with a history of allergy. An allergic reaction to food was reported in almost one third of the children.

By week 16, the extent and severity of AD had improved in significantly more children who received probiotics than in those who received placebo-92% vs 63%. Furthermore, at the completion of the study, 54% of the probiotic group had only mild AD compared with 30% of the placebo group. In addition, as reported by parents, far fewer children in the probiotic group than in the placebo group experienced a lower respiratory tract infection.

Commentary An accompanying editorial by Simon Murch, MD, notes that "probiotics ...continue their impressive march from the fringes of scientific propriety to potential mainstream therapy." This article is another step in that march. Routine use of probiotics will one day be standard practice in pediatrics.