If you eat yogurt, you probably have at least a vague understanding of probiotics. They’re organisms, like “good” bacteria and yeasts, that aid in digestion and boost the immune system. But a new study suggests they may not be so good for newborns.
The study looks at just one subject, a baby boy in Poland who was administered both antibiotics and a probiotic product at two days old. Although he was born full term, the baby weighed just 5 pounds and was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction— meaning he had a slow growth rate in the womb. The antibiotics were to prevent suspected infection, while the probiotic (containing the bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) was to prevent diarrhea from the antibiotics.
Four days later, a blood test and genetic test confirmed he tested positive for an infection from the same strain found in the probiotic.
Here’s why we’re thinking this happened, and why probiotics aren’t the best choice for babies: because of the fragile lining of a newborn’s intestinal tract, some bacteria from the probiotics could seep into his bloodstream (bad). A better choice for cultivating necessary gut bacteria is breast milk.
There’s a chance that probiotics aren’t necessarily bad for newborns across the board: we know that some groups of people, like those with poor immune systems, often respond negatively to the organisms. So the baby’s intrauterine growth restriction condition may make him part of a whole new risk group that just wasn’t previously identified. Still, the American Academy of Pediatrics has never recommended probiotics for babies, so it may be best to avoid them during the first few months.
Luckily, there is a happy ending: the infection only resulted in sensitivity and crying, and the baby was home by the time he reached one month old.
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