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Fermented cow’s milk protects children in daycare from common infections

Pearl Toh
02 Jun 2016

A new dietary product derived from cow's milk fermentation with Lactobacillus paracasei CBA L74 protected against common infectious diseases (CIDs) affecting the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts among young children attending daycare, according to a study presented at the recent European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) annual meeting held in Athens, Greece.    

“Young children attending daycare centres or preschools have up to four times higher risk of CIDs,” said principal investigator Professor Roberto Canani of the Department of Translational Medicine and the European Laboratory for the Investigation of Food Induced Diseases at the University Federico II of Naples in Naples, Italy

“[This results] in missed days of both daycare and parental work, more [doctor] visits, and increased use of drugs than children cared for at home.” 

The multicenter double-blind trial randomized 146 healthy children aged 1 to 2 years (mean age 32.8 months) attending daycare to receive 7 g cow’s milk fermented with L. paracasei CBA L74 daily or a maltodextrin-based placebo for 3 months. [ESPGHAN 2016, abstract N-O-003] 

Seventy-two percent of all children had at least one CID episode, but there were fewer episodes among children in the intervention group compared with the control group (p<0.05). Also, children in the intervention group had a 23 percent lower risk of contracting at least one CID compared with controls (95 percent confidence interval [CI], -37 to -9 percent; p < 0.01).

There were significantly fewer children in the intervention group presenting at least one episode of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) and upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) (p<0.05 for both). Intervention resulted in 22 and 23 percent lower risk of contracting AGE and URTI, respectively (p<0.01 for both).  

Additionally, significantly fewer children in the intervention group required medication (p=0.019) in general. Specifically, fewer children consuming fermented cow’s milk needed at least one course of antibiotics (p=0.03), antipyretics (p=0.044), and steroids (p=0.027) during the study period compared with controls.

“[The protective] effect could be related at least in part to a stimulation of immune and non-immune defence mechanisms,” said Canani.

Analysis of children faecal samples supported this view, showing that children who consumed fermented cow’s milk had significantly higher levels of biomarkers for innate and acquired immunity such as α-defensin (p<0.001), β-defensin (p<0.001), cathelicidin LL-37 (p<0.001), and secretory immunoglobulin A (p<0.001) at 3 months relative to baseline compared with children receiving placebo.

“Dietary supplementation with cow’s milk with L. paracasei CBA L74 can be recommended as a valid strategy in preventing CIDs in children attending [daycare],” Canani said, noting that daycare-related CIDs have been estimated to cost approximately USD 1.8 billion per year in the US.

However, he also cautioned that as the trial studied a specific fermented product with well-characterized probiotic strain, dose, and subject age group, the findings should not be extrapolated to other probiotic strains and each new product should be tested in clinical trials for efficacy and safety.

 

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