An interim report from the Karolinska Institute's Centre for Allergy Research has revealed that expectant and nursing mothers taking the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC 55730 (Reuteri) appear to have higher levels of anti-inflammatory molecules in their breast milk, which could offer their babies better protection against allergies and other diseases.
Anti-inflammatory agents increased
In 2001 the Swedish medical research team launched the clinical study with over 200 moms and newborn infants to demonstrate that children receiving probiotic supplements, good bacteria that support and promote a healthy digestive system, are less likely to develop allergies compared to children in a control group.
Half of the mothers received Reuteri supplements for four weeks prior to the birth of their babies and their infants then received Reuteri supplements for the next twelve months. An analysis of breast milk taken from the mothers in the supplement group within days of giving birth found increased levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine (cell signal substance) IL-10 and reduced levels of TGF-beta-2.
Direct effect on child immunity
Professor Bengt Björkstén, who is leading the study at the Karolinska Institute, says the increased levels of IL-10 combined with reduced levels of TGF-beta-2 in the milk of mothers receiving Reuteri could suggest a direct effect on child immunity.
According to Björkstén, IL-10 is key to the regulation of the immune system and has been shown to have anti-flammatory properties. These findings are consistent with less inflammation in the breasts of mothers taking Reuteri and an increased supply of the key cytokine IL-10 to the infant.
"To find this increase in mother's milk after a relatively short period of supplementation is extremely positive. This presents an opportunity to develop probiotics for use by expectant and nursing mothers to improve both their own health and that of their babies," says Björkstén.
Reuteri meets strict criteria
According to Cape Town paediatrician Dr Deon Smith, Reuteri is the only probiotic available in South Africa that meets the strict criteria that define a probiotic and is often prescribed for the treatment of infectious diarrhoea, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and the treatment of yeast infections.
The probiotic strain Reuteri was first isolated in breast milk and has since been cultivated. The final results of the study are expected in 2005. – (Health24)
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