Objectives: With the adoption of vigorous child survival strategies, infant and child mortalities in India have declined significantly, even among the poorest, most undernourished segments of the population. Of the surviving infants and children, however, many remain stunted and undernourished. The present study was based on the hypothesis that failure to thrive is the result of damage to the gut epithelium incurred during repeated bouts of gastrointestinal infections. Promoting the regeneration of the damaged gut epithelium through the use of lactobacillus-rich fermented foods may yield beneficial results. This low-cost procedure can be widely used, even in poor communities. The objectives of this study were to investigate the effect in poor Indian communities of supplementation with a probiotic on the growth of children (aged 2 to 5 years) with growth retardation and assess the difference in morbidity between those receiving the supplement (n = 50) and the control group (n = 50), mainly with respect to the frequency, severity, and duration of diarrheal episodes.
Methods: One hundred children aged 2 to 5 y from an urban slum of New Delhi were matched for their age (+/-36 d), sex and weight (+/-1 kg) and assigned to one of two groups (experimental n= 50 and control n= 50). The experimental group received a probiotic supplement (50 ml curd containing Lactobacillus acidophilus) and the control group received an isocaloric supplement daily for 6 mo. Weight, height, and morbidity profile with respect to diarrhea, fever, cough, and cold was recorded.
Results: Increases in weight (P < 0.002) and height (P < 0.001) were significantly greater in the experimental group than in the control group. In addition, after 6 mo, of supplementation, there were fewer cases of diarrhea (P < 0.005) and fever (P < 0.001) in the intervention group then in the control group.
Conclusions: From this study, it can be concluded that 6 mo of probiotic supplementation may be beneficial with respect to decrease in diarrheal morbidity and accelerated growth in the experimental group.