Can probiotics help kids with atopic dermatitis?


By Margaret W. Crane

Published On: Apr 29, 2019

Last Updated On: Jul 13, 2021

For years, researchers have been looking at probiotics as a possible treatment for atopic dermatitis (AD) in children and adults, but their results have been less than convincing—until now.

2018 may go down in history as the year when the evidence started to come in—evidence showing that probiotics are effective in treating babies and small children with AD.

The authors of a study published in June found that Lactobacillus-containing probiotic strains reduced disease severity in infants and children less than 3 years old.

The researchers reviewed seven clinical trials comparing probiotics vs. placebo in a total of 609 infants and children under age 3. They found a significant decrease in the Scoring Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) index among those who received probiotics.

The SCORAD index is the most common method of measuring of AD severity. However, the SCORAD decrease was only seen in the children given Lactobacillus-containing strains, while other probiotic strains, such as Bifidobacterium, were shown to be of little benefit.

Additionally, the study’s authors reported that infants and small children with moderate to severe AD showed a greater response to probiotic treatment than did those with milder disease.

The researchers conceded that these results, while promising, are just the beginning. Before probiotics receive approval as a preventive treatment or intervention for infantile AD, further studies will be needed to answer the following questions:

How should they be administered? What’s the optimal dosing regimen? At what precise age is treatment with probiotics most effective? What is the optimal duration of treatment—one month, three months, a year or longer? And finally, should the use of probiotics be personalized, and if so, how?

The new study may have its limitations, but its findings spell a hopeful message for families who want nothing more than to see their children heal from AD, and for the physicians waiting for evidence supporting the use of probiotics in their youngest patients.

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