Background: The role of probiotics in prevention of allergic disease is still not clearly established, although early reports suggested Lactobacillus GG halved the risk of eczema at 2 years.
Objective: To determine whether probiotic supplementation in early life could prevent development of eczema and atopy at 2 years.
Methods: Double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial of infants at risk of allergic disease. Pregnant women were randomized to take Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (L rhamnosus), Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis strain HN019 or placebo daily from 35 weeks gestation until 6 months if breast-feeding, and their infants were randomized to receive the same treatment from birth to 2 years (n = 474). The infant's cumulative prevalence of eczema and point prevalence of atopy, using skin prick tests to common allergens, was assessed at 2 years.
Results: Infants receiving L rhamnosus had a significantly (P = .01) reduced risk of eczema (hazard ratio [HR], 0.51; 95% CI, 0.30-0.85) compared with placebo, but this was not the case for B animalis subsp lactis (HR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.58-1.41). There was no significant effect of L rhamnosus (HR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.46-1.18) or B animalis subsp lactis (HR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.52-1.28) on atopy. L rhamnosus (71.5%) was more likely than B animalis subsp lactis (22.6%) to be present in the feces at 3 months, although detection rates were similar by 24 months.
Conclusion: We found that supplementation with L rhamnosus, but not B animalis subsp lactis, substantially reduced the cumulative prevalence of eczema, but not atopy, by 2 years. Understanding how Lactobacilli act to prevent eczema requires further investigation.