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Probiotics have no effect on children with gastroenteritis, study shows

Published on 22/11/18 at 10:28am
Image Credit: Nicola Fawcett

Despite the claims of marketing campaigns and advertisements, probiotics have no effect on gastroenteritis on children, according to a new study from the University of Calgary.

While a multibillion dollar industry has arisen around claims that probiotics can effectively treat an array of ailments and sicknesses in recent years, new research suggests that probiotic products have no effect on one condition, gastroenteritis, commonly known as stomach flu.

“We studied the effects of giving probiotics to hundreds of children whose parents brought them into emergency departments across the country suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea," said Dr Stephen Freedman, paediatric emergency medicine physician with Alberta Health Services, holder of the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Professorship in Child Health & Wellness and member of Cumming School of Medicine's Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute. "We found no evidence that probiotics had any effect on reducing symptoms, or helping with recovery.”

“These findings, taken together, are very powerful. The findings show that children treated with probiotics have the exact same outcomes across a large range of symptoms, as those given placebo -- the probiotics had no effect. The results deliver a clear message that we need to question the role and benefits of probiotics for other health applications using large, patient oriented, rigorous clinical trials,” he added.

The double blind randomised study tested two brands of probiotics on children with gastroenteritis between the ages of 3 and 48 months.

Dr Schnadower, who conducted the research as a professor of paediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and is now a professor at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, commented: “There were smaller trials that had shown promising results. We wanted to replicate these findings on a large scale to see whether the age of the patient, the type of infection, and the use of antibiotics or length of time a child had the illness would affect the response to probiotics. The findings in both studies were consistently negative regardless of how the data were analysed.”

Louis Goss

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