Good bacteria during pregnancy may ward off eczema: study
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Babies were less likely to get the itchy skin rash eczema when their mothers took probiotics during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, according to a study from Finland.
Researchers said it's possible that probiotics - which are thought to help balance bacteria populations in the gut and prevent disease-causing strains from spreading - may influence babies' health through immune cells that cross the placenta and later are passed in breast milk.
Prevention regimen with specific probiotics administered to the pregnant and breast-feeding mother, that is, prenatally and postnatally, is safe and effective in reducing the risk of eczema in infants with allergic mothers, wrote lead author Samuli Rautava of Turku University Central Hospital, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
For the study, Rautava and his colleagues assigned 241 pregnant women to take one of two different probiotic combinations, given as a powder mixed with water once daily, or a bacteria-free placebo powder.
All of the mothers-to-be had a history of allergies, so their babies were at extra-high risk of eczema and other allergic reactions.
The women drank their assigned concoction for the last two months of pregnancy and their first two months of breastfeeding. Researchers then tracked their babies' health for two years to see how many developed rashes.
By the end of the study, 71 percent of babies in the placebo group had had eczema at least once, compared to 29 percent of babies whose mother took either probiotic combination.
Chronic eczema was diagnosed in 26 percent of placebo kids, compared to 10 percent and six percent, respectively, of those in the two probiotic groups.
However, by age two there was no difference in kids' sensitivities to a range of allergens, including milk, wheat, soy and dog and cat dander, based on whether their mothers had taken the supplements. About one quarter of the children had a positive skin prick test for sensitivity to an allergen.
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