Background: The role of probiotics in allergy prevention remains uncertain but has been shown in some studies to have a possible protective effect on eczema.
Objective: We aimed to assess the effect of probiotic supplementation in the first 6 months of life on eczema and allergic sensitization at 1 year of age in Asian infants at risk of allergic disease.
Methods: A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial involving 253 infants with a family history of allergic disease was carried out. Infants received at least 60 mL of commercially available cow's milk formula with or without probiotic supplementation [Bifidobacterium longum (BL999) 1 x 10(7) colony forming unit (CFU)/g and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LPR) 2 x 10(7) CFU/g] daily for the first 6 months. Clinical evaluation was performed at 1, 3, 6 and 12 months of age, with serum total IgE measurement and skin prick tests conducted at the 12-month visit. The primary and secondary end-points were eczema and allergen sensitization, respectively.
Results: The incidence of eczema in the probiotic (22%) group was similar to that in the placebo group (25%) (P=0.53). The median Scoring Atopic Dermatitis score at 12 months was 17.10 (9.74) in the probiotic group and 11.60 (8.40) in the placebo group (P=0.17). The prevalence of allergen sensitization showed no difference (probiotic=24% vs. placebo=19%, P=0.26). The total IgE geometric mean (95% confidence interval) was 18.76 (12.54-24.98) kU/L in the probiotic group and 23.13 (16.01-30.24) kU/L in the placebo group (P=0.15). Atopic eczema (with sensitization) in the probiotic (7.3%) group was comparable to the placebo group (5.8%) (P=0.86).
Conclusion: Early life administration of a cow's milk formula supplemented with probiotics showed no effect on prevention of eczema or allergen sensitization in the first year of life in Asian infants at risk of allergic disease. Further work is needed to determine whether timing of supplementation, dose and probiotic strain are important considerations.