Can Good Bacteria Keep Bad Bacteria Away?

Probiotics and prebiotics did not appear to reduce ear infections in children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The human body is made up of trillions of bacteria, most of which are helpful or do not affect us much at all. Sometimes adding a bit of good bacteria to the mix can promote health.

But a recent study found that giving babies some "good" bacteria did not appear to help reduce their ear infections.

The study looked at the use of probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that promote health in a person by keeping their bacterial make-up in balance. Prebiotics are food elements that cannot be digested but are designed to promote helpful bacterial growth in a person.

Both may be useful for other conditions, but according to this study, not for children's ear infections.

"Ask your pediatrician about ear infection prevention."

This study, led by Robert Cohen, MD, of the Clinical Research Center at Créteil Intercommunal Hospital Center in France, looked at whether the use of probiotics or prebiotics could help reduce children's ear infections.

The researchers compared 224 children, aged 7 to 13 months, during a full year in France.

The children were all at high risk for ear infections. One group of 112 children received formula supplemented with prebiotics and probiotics, and the other group of 112 received non-supplemented formula.

The prebiotic in the formula was Raftilose/Raftiline. The probiotic was a mixture of Streptococcus thermophilus, Streptococcus salivarius and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.

Both groups of children had been fully vaccinated with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against some bacteria known to cause ear infections.

During the course of the study, the children as a whole developed 486 ear infections total. This included 249 in the group receiving the probiotics/prebiotics and 237 in the group receiving regular formula.

The researchers did not find any significant difference in the rate of ear infections or lower respiratory tract infections between the groups.

In addition, neither group was more likely to receive antibiotic treatment (treatment for bacterial infection).

Those who were treated with antibiotics were no more likely than other children to develop recurrent or multiple ear infections.

Neither formula was associated with gastrointestinal problems in either group.

The researchers therefore concluded that the use of probiotics and prebiotics did not reduce the number of ear infections children suffered.

This study was published in the August issue of the The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

The research was funded by Nestlé company, and one author was an employee of Nestlé. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
August 30, 2013
Last Updated:
August 31, 2013