Objective To evaluate a multistrain, high-dose probiotic in the prevention of eczema.
Design A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group trial.
Settings Antenatal clinics, research clinic, children at home.
Patients Pregnant women and their infants.
Interventions Women from 36 weeks gestation and their infants to age 6 months received daily either the probiotic (Lactobacillus salivarius CUL61, Lactobacillus paracasei CUL08, Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies lactis CUL34 and Bifidobacterium bifidum CUL20; total of 1010 organisms/day) or matching placebo.
Main outcome measure Diagnosed eczema at age 2 years. Infants were followed up by questionnaire. Clinical examination and skin prick tests to common allergens were done at 6 months and 2 years.
Results The cumulative frequency of diagnosed eczema at 2 years was similar in the probiotic (73/214, 34.1%) and placebo arms (72/222, 32.4%; OR 1.07, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.6). Among the secondary outcomes, the cumulative frequency of skin prick sensitivity at 2 years was reduced in the probiotic (18/171; 10.5%) compared with the placebo arm (32/173; 18.5%; OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.98). The statistically significant differences between the arms were mainly in sensitisation to cow's milk and hen's egg proteins at 6 months. Atopic eczema occurred in 9/171 (5.3%) children in the probiotic arm and 21/173 (12.1%) in the placebo arm (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.91).
Conclusions The study did not provide evidence that the probiotic either prevented eczema during the study or reduced its severity. However, the probiotic seemed to prevent atopic sensitisation to common food allergens and so reduce the incidence of atopic eczema in early childhood.
Trial registration Number ISRCTN26287422.
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