New Zealanders find Bug to beat Eczema

Lactobacillus Rhamnosus - Culturelle

Cheese-derived bacteria have been found to halve the prevalence of childhood eczema, which affects 30% of New Zealand children up to the age of two.

A two-year study by Fonterra in conjunction with the University of Otago and Auckland University has singled out the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain as remarkably effective in reducing ezcema in children up to two.

Probiotics are live, naturally occurring micro-organisms that work within the digestive system to improve digestion and general health.

Otago University professor Julian Crane said that the study investigated the use of two probiotic supplements in mothers and babies. “Our study has found when you give pregnant women the probiotic supplement L rhamnosus during the last five weeks of pregnancy, and for six months after birth while mothers are breastfeeding, and then you give their infants the same probiotic up to two years of age, there is a 50 per cent reduction in eczema by the age of two.”

The second probiotic tested, Bifido bacterium lactis, did not have the same results and acted more as a placebo, he said.

Fonterra director of ingredients marketing Donald Moore said the L rhamnosus probiotic was a boon for pediatric nutrition companies, which were already showing interest in putting it into their premium products.

He said the strain was not common and had great commercial potential. Eczema affects 30 per cent of infants in New Zealand by the age of two, and the prevalence of the skin condition is increasing in New Zealand and around the world, though the reasons are not clear.

Severity varies from a small patch of scaly, dry skin to large, weeping areas covering much of a child’s body. Treatments rely on moisturising and steroid creams.

Allergy New Zealand spokeswoman Inge Stunzner said a new probiotic with clinical evidence showing promising results would be popular. “There are lots of products on the market claiming to do the job. They don’t,” she said.

Mr Moore said pediatric nutrition was a significant part of Fonterra’s added-value business and the new probiotic had been in development for 10 years and commercially available for the past three. “You have to have this sort of efficacy before you can really push it in the market.”

The trial, involving 446 women from pregnancy and their babies till two years old, was bigger than other trials of eczema probiotics.

Professor Crane said there had been a great many studies into probiotic effect on eczema and it was commonly thought that all probiotics were similar in effect.

The study quashed that theory, showing considerable difference between the probiotics tested, but also a significant reduction in the occurrence of ezcema in children.

“A 50% reduction is worth having, given that there is nothing you can really do to stop ezcema. Anything that keeps it down is good,” he said.

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Source: The Dominion, Posted Wednesday, 10 September 2008
Author: Nick Churchouse

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