They also found the formulae to be well tolerated and safe when used over a long period of time.
Probiotic developer BioGaia also said this week it has signed an agreement with Germany's leading baby food manufacturer Hipp GmbH & Co Vertrieb KG for use of its Reuteri in certain baby food products marketed in Europe. These will include two new baby cereals containing the bacteria to be launched in Germany and Austria.
A recent Israeli study commissioned by BioGaia showed that day care children who received Reuteri-fortified cereal had significantly fewer cases of gastrointestinal infection and fever, resulting in lower sickness absence, fewer doctor's visits and reduced use of antibiotics compared with those in the control group, says the firm.
"Most of our efficacy studies are carried out on small children and we have demonstrated that Reuteri is both safe to use and occurs naturally in human breast milk. These properties make Reuteri ideal as an ingredient in baby products and this is definitely a priority area for us," said Peter Rothschild, managing director of BioGaia.
The new study from Johns Hopkins university seems to confirm this.
Researchers carried out a prospective, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study on 118 healthy infants aged 3-24 months old. Infants were assigned to receive a standard milk-based formula containing equal doses of Bifidobacterium lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus, or a formula containing lower doses of each of these bactera or unsupplemented formula. None were breast-fed during the study, which lasted up to 210 days.
"The supplemented formulas were well accepted and were associated with a lower frequency of reported colic or irritability and a lower frequency of antibiotic use than was the unsupplemented formula," conclude the researchers in this month's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (vol 79, no 2, 261-267).
Breast milk is believed to offer the best option for infants but formula makers continue to try to improve their products, aiming to make them as close to the real thing as possible. The live bacteria used in the formulae in this study appear to mimic the bacterial flora of breast milk and offer protection against disease.