This 10-months randomised, double-blind, parallel and placebo-controlled study evaluated the effects of Bifidobacterium longum BB536 on diarrhoea and/or upper respiratory illnesses in 520 healthy Malaysian pre-school children aged 2-6 years old. The subjects randomly received a one-gram sachet containing either BB536 (5×109 cfu) or placebo daily. Data analysis was performed on 219 subjects who fully complied over 10-months (placebo n=110, BB536 n=109). While BB536 did not exert significant effects against diarrhoea in children, Poisson regression with generalised estimating equations model indicated significant intergroup difference in the mean number of times of respiratory illnesses over 10 months. The duration of sore throat was reduced by 46% (P=0.018), with marginal reduction for duration of fever (reduced by 27%, P=0.084), runny nose (reduced by 15%, P=0.087) and cough (reduced by 16%, P=0.087) as compared to the placebo. Principal coordinate analysis at genus level of the gut microbiota revealed significant differences between 0 and 10 months in the BB536 group (P<0.01) but not in placebo group (P>0.05). The abundance of the genus Faecalibacterium which is associated with anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulatory properties was significantly higher in the BB536 group (P<0.05) compared to the placebo group. Altogether, our present study illustrated the potential protective effects of BB536 against upper respiratory illnesses in pre-school Malaysian children, with gut microbiota modulating properties.
Keywords: Bifidobacterium longum BB536; gastrointestinal; gut microbiota; upper respiratory.