Prebiotic formula milk reduces skin atopy in infants
MedWire News: Supplementation of formula milk with a prebiotic oligosaccharide mixture reduces the incidence of atopic dermatitis (AD) in infants by 44% compared with regular formula, research shows.
The study followed-up infants in the year after birth, but the researchers speculate that the effect may persist "beyond the first birthday and may even result in a reduced incidence of respiratory allergy later in life."
AD is the most common chronic skin disease in children, with a prevalence of about 10% in many industrialized countries, Christoph Gruber (Klinikum Frankfurt [Oder], Germany) and colleagues observe in the Journal of Clinical Immunology.
Studies have shown that a family history of atopic disorders is the strongest predictor for the development of AD in infants, allowing clinicians to target this high-risk population for primary prevention measures. Yet the majority of children who develop atopic disease come from families without such a history.
In terms of environmental stressors, there is a broad consensus that intestinal microbiota plays an important physiological role in the postnatal development of the immune system.
Gruber et al recruited healthy term infants younger than 8 weeks with a low familial atopy risk, who had either started with formula feeding, switched to follow-on formula, or remained on exclusive breastfeeding.
Formula-fed infants were randomly assigned to receive a formula containing a specific mixture of neutral oligosaccharides and pectin-derived acidic oligosaccharides (prebiotic formula group; n=414) or regular formula without oligosaccharides (control formula group; n=416). A total of 300 infants who were breastfed were followed up as a reference group.
During their first year, just 5.7% of infants who were fed the prebiotic formula experienced AD compared with 9.7% of those who received the control formula (hazard ratio=0.56). Indeed, the cumulative incidence of AD among infants who received the probiotic formula was statistically comparable to that among breastfed infants (7.3%).
Among infants who did develop AD, there was a tendency toward a less severe condition among those fed prebiotic formula than regular formula, with average Scoring Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) index scores of 8 versus 12.
Gruber and colleagues say the findings add important information to the overall picture of AD.
"Primary prevention in infants at low AD risk is crucial because on a population level, most children who develop AD come from families without a positive family history," they comment.
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By Andrew Czyzewski