Background: Probiotic administration may be a useful method for preventing allergies in infants; however, there have been controversial results about the efficacy. We investigated the effects of bifidobacterial supplementation on the risk of developing allergic diseases in the Japanese population.
Methods: In an open trial, we gave Bifidobacterium breve M-16V and Bifidobacterium longum BB536 prenatally to 130 mothers beginning 1 month prior to delivery and postnatally to their infants for 6 months. Another 36 mother-infant pairs served as controls and did not receive the bifidobacterial supplementation. Development of allergic symptoms in the infants was assessed at 4, 10 and 18 months of age. Fecal samples were collected from the mothers and infants.
Results: The risk of developing eczema/atopic dermatitis (AD) during the first 18 months of life was significantly reduced in infants in the probiotic group (OR: 0.231 [95% CI: 0.084-0.628] and 0.304 [0.105-0.892] at 10 and 18 months of age, respectively). Pyrosequencing analyses indicated an altered composition of the fecal microbiota at 4 months for infants who developed eczema/AD at 4 and 10 months of age. The proportion of Proteobacteria was significantly lower (P = 0.007) in mothers at the time of delivery who received the supplementation when compared with the control group and was positively correlated (r = 0.283, P = 0.024) with that of infants at 4 months of age. No adverse effects were related to the use of probiotics.
Conclusions: These data suggest that the prenatal and postnatal supplementation of bifidobacteria is effective in primary preventing allergic diseases. Some limited changes in the composition of fecal microbiota by the bifidobacterial supplementation were observed.