Friendly bacteria help treat diarrhea in children

June 4, 2002 in Gastrointestinal Health, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Friendly bacteria help treat diarrhea in children

Supplements containing two different strains of lactobacillus, a bacterium commonly found in yogurt, can help ease bouts of severe diarrhea in children and reduce their hospital stays.

These supplements are also called “probiotics”. They are thought to work by altering the microbial balance in the intestinal tract.

Researchers from Denmark studied 69 children between 6 months and 3 years old who were hospitalized for severe diarrhea. Half of the children received a supplement containing two strains of Lactobacillus twice a day for 5 days, while the rest received an inactive placebo.

While children treated with the "good bacteria" had shorter average bouts of diarrhea than the untreated kids, although this difference was not statistically significant. But by 5 days after treatment began, 3 of the 30 probiotic-treated children still had loose stools, versus 13 of the 39 children given placebo. The probiotic treatment cut the amount of time children with diarrhea spent in the hospital.

The research team also found that children given lactobacillus were less likely to show signs of infection with rotavirus, the leading cause of diarrhea in infants, than youngsters who did not receive the bacteria treatment.

The researchers found that the supplements were most helpful when given early on in the course of illness.

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