Synbiotics in Infancy: An Ounce of Prevention?

Today I came across an article in The Scientist about using a synbiotic (a combination of a probiotic and a prebiotic) to treat sepsis and lower the rate of respiratory infections in infants.[i]  Sepsis is an excessive inflammatory response to a bacterial infection that can lead to organ damage and death.  Infantile sepsis is apparently a major issue in developing nations.

The synbiotic product (which contained Lactobacillis plantarum and the prebiotic, FOS) was given to 4,556 full-term newborns in India, where there is a high rate of infant death and infectious disease.  The synbiotics reduced sepsis and death by 40%.

There were several points in the research that I found particularly interesting and worth mentioning here on my blog.

Firstly, there was a pilot study done previously that “…demonstrated persistent colonization of L. plantarum in the guts of infants given the synbiotic cocktail within the first three days of life…”  That is, seeding the infant gut at birth with good flora lasts a lifetime. The researchers in this trial gave the infants 7 days of the synbiotics to “…set up an optimal immune system that better protects infants in the first few months of life.”

Just last week I mentioned research showing how – in spite of all we know about destroying the developing microbiome early in life – antibiotic use is still excessive in infancy (and that such alterations are known to lead to allergies, asthma, obesity, eczema, etc.).  It strikes me that perhaps the thing to do is to seed the microbiomes of ALL newborn babies everywhere.  (As I always say (and have many times on this blog), if it can’t hurt and it could help, do it.)

Seems to me this is an especially good idea since, “…the decrease in respiratory infections suggests that the synbiotic may be altering the nature of the systemic immune response, bolstering immunity against infections other than those arising from the gut.”  Wow.   Maybe if we seed the gut at birth, there will be no reason to use antibiotics so very often.

The main researcher, Dr. Panigrahi, says his “…ultimate goal is not just sepsis prevention but prevention of all kinds of diseases with probiotics, particularly in the context of…the rise in inflammatory disorders around the world.”

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?



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