Strain-Specificity of Probiotics in Pediatrics: A Rapid Review of the Clinical Evidence

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2023 Feb 1;76(2):227-231. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000003675. Epub 2022 Dec 1.


Objective: The dogma of probiotic strain-specificity is widely accepted. However, only the genus- and species-specific effects of probiotics are supported by evidence from clinical trials. The aim of this rapid review was to assess clinical evidence supporting the claim that the efficacy of probiotics in the pediatric population is strain-specific.

Methods: The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, and EMBASE databases were searched (up to August 2022) for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) conducted in children aged 0-18 years evaluating the effects of prophylactic or therapeutic administration of probiotics (well-characterized at the strain level) for conditions such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea, acute diarrhea, necrotizing enterocolitis, respiratory tract infections, Helicobacter pylori infection, and atopic dermatitis. To allow evaluation of strain-specificity, a trial could only be included in the review if at least one additional RCT assessed the effect of a different strain of the same species against the same comparator. RCTs without proper strain-level data were excluded. In the absence of identifying head-to-head strain versus strain RCTs, indirect comparisons were made between interventions.

Results: Twenty-three RCTs were eligible for inclusion. Out of the 11 performed comparisons, with 1 exception (two Lacticaseibacillus paracasei strains in reducing atopic dermatitis symptoms), no significant differences between the clinical effects of different strains of the same probiotic species were found.

Conclusions: Head-to-head comparison is an optimal study design to compare probiotic strains, but such comparisons are lacking. Based on indirect comparisons, this rapid review demonstrates insufficient clinical evidence to support or refute the claim that probiotic effects in children are strain-specific.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Dermatitis, Atopic*
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Probiotics* / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents