The impact of controlled administration of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12 (BB-12) on the risk of acute infectious diseases was studied in healthy newborn infants. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 109 newborn 1-month-old infants were assigned randomly to a probiotic group receiving a BB-12-containing tablet (n 55) or to a control group receiving a control tablet (n 54). Test tablets were administered to the infants twice a day (daily dose of BB-12 10 billion colony-forming units) from the age of 1-2 months to 8 months with a novel slow-release pacifier or a spoon. Breastfeeding habits, pacifier use, dietary habits, medications and all signs and symptoms of acute infections were registered. At the age of 8 months, faecal samples were collected for BB-12 determination (quantitative PCR method). The baseline characteristics of the two groups were similar, as was the duration of exclusive breastfeeding. BB-12 was recovered (detection limit log 5) in the faeces of 62% of the infants receiving the BB-12 tablet. The daily duration of pacifier sucking was not associated with the occurrence of acute otitis media. No significant differences between the groups were observed in reported gastrointestinal symptoms, otitis media or use of antibiotics. However, the infants receiving BB-12 were reported to have experienced fewer respiratory infections (65 v. 94%; risk ratio 0·69; 95% CI 0·53, 0·89; P = 0·014) than the control infants. Controlled administration of BB-12 in early childhood may reduce respiratory infections.