Objectives: Probiotics may be useful in preventing acute infectious diarrhea. Bifidobacteria are particularly attractive as probiotics agent because they constitute the predominant colonic flora of breastfed infants and are thought to play a role in the decreased incidence of diarrhea in breastfed infants.
Methods: This was a multicenter, double-blind, controlled study to evaluate the efficacy of a milk formula supplemented with viable Bifidobacterium lactis strain Bb 12 (BbF) in the prevention of acute diarrhea in infants younger than 8 months living in residential nurseries or foster care centers.
Results: Ninety healthy children received either the BbF or a conventional formula (CF) daily. The mean duration of the stay in the residential center was similar (137 v 148 days). At enrollment, there were no differences between the two groups with respect to age (3.7 +/- 2.1 months), gender, anthropometric data, history of allergy or gastrointestinal disease, frequency of breast-feeding in the neonatal period or timing of introduction of solid food. Altogether, 28.3% of the BbF infants had diarrhea during the study compared with 38.7% of controls (NS). There was a statistically insignificant trend for shorter episodes of diarrhea in the BbF group (5.1 +/- 3.3 days v 7 +/- 5.5 days, NS). The number of days with diarrhea was 1.15 +/- 2.5 in the BbF group with a daily probability of diarrhea of 0.84 versus 2.3 +/- 4.5 days and 1.55, respectively, in the CF group (P = 0.0002 and 0.0014). Feeding infants with the BbF reduced their risk of getting diarrhea by a factor of 1.9 (range, 1.33-2.6). Analysis of the cumulative incidence of diarrheal episodes showed a trend that the first onset of diarrhea occurred later in the BbF group.
Conclusion: These results provide some evidence that viable Bifidobacterium lactis strain Bb 12, added to an acidified infant formula, has some protective effect against acute diarrhea in healthy children.