Background: Addition of probiotics to infant formula may positively affect immune function in nonexclusively breastfed infants. This study aimed to investigate the effect of infant starter formula containing the probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies lactis (Bb12) on intestinal immunity and inflammation.
Methods: Six-week-old healthy, full-term infants (n = 172) were enrolled in a prospective, randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial with 2 groups studied in parallel to a breastfed comparison group. Formula-fed (FF) infants were randomized to partially hydrolyzed whey formula (CON) or the same formula containing 10(6) colony-forming units (CFU) Bb12/g (PRO) for 6 weeks. Fecal secretory IgA (sIgA), calprotectin, lactate, and stool pH were assessed at baseline, 2 weeks, and 6 weeks. Anti-poliovirus-specific IgA and anti-rotavirus-specific IgA were assessed at 2 and 6 weeks.
Results: Among vaginally delivered FF infants, PRO consumption increased (P < .05) fecal sIgA compared to CON. Anti-poliovirus-specific IgA concentration increased (P < .05) in all infants consuming PRO, whereas anti-rotavirus-specific IgA tended to increase (P = .056) with PRO consumption in cesarean-delivered infants. Anthropometrics and tolerance did not differ significantly between FF infants.
Conclusions: Infants consuming formula with Bb12 produced feces with detectable presence of Bb12 and augmented sIgA concentration. Furthermore, cesarean-delivered infants consuming Bb12 had heightened immune response, as evidenced by increased anti-rotavirus- and anti-poliovirus-specific IgA following immunization. These results demonstrate that negative immune-related effects of not breastfeeding and cesarean delivery can be mitigated by including Bb12 in infant formula, thereby providing infants a safe, dietary, immune-modulating bacterial introduction.