In some cases, Probiotics may help children with stomach viruses, researchers write in the medical journal Pediatrics. A probiotic is a microbe that protects its host from disease. For humans, the bacterium Lactobacillus acidophilus is an example of a probiotic that is found in acidophilus milk, yogurt and some supplements. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that encourage the activity or growth of bacteria in the gut, promoting good health.
The authors report that randomized clinical trials found that Probiotics were "modestly effective" in treating healthy children with antibiotic-associated diarrhea or acute viral gastroenteritis.
They also found evidence showing some benefits of Probiotics for very low weight infants. The Probiotics are likely to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis - a serious bacterial intestinal infection which can cause the death (necrosis) of intestinal tissue and eventual septicemia (blood poisoning). However, they stressed further studies are needed.
Randomized clinical trials which appeared to show some benefits from using Probiotics for children with Helicobacter pylori gastritis, infantile colic, chronic ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome should be seen as "preliminary", and further studies should be conducted to confirm the findings, the authors wrote.
There is currently no evidence that Probiotics can help in the treatment of childhood cancers or Crohn's disease in children.
The authors expressed concern regarding probiotic use in children/infants who are chronically debilitated, seriously ill with internal medical devices, and those who are immunocompromised.
A communiqué in Pediatrics wrote:
- But the American Academy of Pediatrics said that the science is not strong enough to advocate infant formulas with Probiotics..probiotics shouldn't be given to seriously ill children.
The authors wrote that:
- "Probiotics taken early during diarrhea from a viral infection may shorten the illness in otherwise healthy children. And probiotics also may prevent diarrhea in children who are taking antibiotics, which can sometimes cause the condition."
Human milk is rich in prebiotics. There are such few trials which have looked at the use of prebiotics in children that it is hard to say what the specific benefits are. The authors say there may be some benefits for children with atopic eczema and common infections experienced by healthy infants. Further research is required.
"Clinical Report-Probiotics and Prebiotics in Pediatrics"
Dan W. Thomas, MD, Frank R. Greer, MD
Written by Christian Nordqvist