Gut 51:51-55 doi:10.1136/gut.51.1.51
  • Intestinal microflora

Aberrant composition of gut microbiota of allergic infants: a target of bifidobacterial therapy at weaning?

  1. P V Kirjavainen1,
  2. T Arvola2,
  3. S J Salminen1,
  4. E Isolauri3
  1. 1Department of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry, University of Turku, Finland
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland
  3. 3Department of Paediatrics, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
  1. Correspondence to:
    P V Kirjavainen, Functional Foods Forum, University of Turku, FIN-20014 Turku, Finland;
  • Accepted 2 October 2001


Background: Recent data have outlined a relationship between the composition of the intestinal microflora and allergic inflammation, and demonstrated the competence of probiotics in downregulation of such inflammation.

Aims: Our aims were to characterise the relationship between gut microbes and the extent of allergic sensitisation and to assess whether the efficacy of bifidobacterial supplementation in the treatment of allergy could relate to modulation of the intestinal microbiota.

Methods: This randomised study included 21 infants with early onset atopic eczema of whom eight were intolerant (highly sensitised group (HSG)) and 13 tolerant (sensitised group (SG)) to extensively hydrolysed whey formula (EHF). In the SG, six were weaned to EHF without (placebo group (PG)) and seven to EHF with Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12 supplementation (bifidobacteria treated group (BbG)). The faecal microflora of infants in the HSG was analysed only before weaning whereas in the SG the faecal microflora was analysed both before and after weaning.

Results: Infants in the HSG had greater numbers of lactobacilli/enterococci than those in the SG. Serum total IgE concentration correlated directly with Escherichia coli counts in all infants and with bacteroides counts in the HSG, indicating that the presence of these bacteria is associated with the extent of atopic sensitisation. The effect of supplementation was characterised as a decrease in the numbers of Escherichia coli and protection against an increase in bacteroides numbers during weaning.

Conclusions: These data indicate that bifidobacterial supplementation appears to modify the gut microbiota in a manner that may alleviate allergic inflammation. Further studies are needed to confirm this conclusion.