Young children catch everything those first few years in a day care or preschool setting.
Not surprisingly, their immune systems are immature, just like them. The fallout can be considerable: besides making a child miserable, school and parents’ work days are lost and cost is incurred to the medical system.
Can probiotics help in prevention?
Giovanni Corsello and his colleagues from research centers across Italy looked at the effect of cow’s milk fermented with a strain of Lactobacillus paracasei on common infectious diseases (CIDs) in children attending day care or preschool. The CIDs included acute gastroenteritis, rhinitis, otis media, pharyngitis, laryngitis and tracheitis.
Their work appeared in Nutrients in June 2017 titled Preventive Effect of Cow’s Milk Fermented with Lactobacillus paracasei CBA L74 on Common Infectious Diseases in Children: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial.
Prior studies cited by the authors showed that milk fermented with this particular strain of L. paracasei exerts anti-inflammatory properties. Interestingly, an inactivated probiotic –also used in this study– had a positive effect on the immune system. Peptides produced during fermentation have a part in the impact. Also, because no living microbes are used, bacterial drift is contained and storage is not a factor.
Healthy children age 1-4 years took part in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in day care and preschools in Palermo, Milan, and Naples.
- Group A: 66 children received a small amount (7 grams) of the skim cow’s milk fermented with a strain of L. paracasei.
- Group B: 60 children received the same amount of skim cow’s milk with maltodextrin, essentially a placebo.
Incidence of common infectious diseases and innate immunity biomarkers were monitored during a 3 month follow-up.
- The percentage of children having at least one CID: 18% in group A (the fermented milk group) and 40% in the placebo group B
- Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) was significantly lower in group A than group B (51% vs. 74%).
- Acute gastroenteritis was significantly lower in group A than group B (18% vs. 40%).
- Group A also showed significant changes in immune biomarkers.
The authors say that these results are hopeful, especially given the growing numbers of children attending centers.
“However, it is important to recognize that this RCT studied a specific fermented product with a specific probiotic strain, a well-defined dose, and age group, and that these findings cannot be extrapolated for other fermented products based on different probiotics strains.”