The ProChild Study

Overview

Infections of the upper respiratory tract (UTRI’s) characterised by coughs and colds, present a heavy burden on both health care systems and the economy of the U.K., as well as being uncomfortable and in some circumstances severe conditions for the individual. They are the most common reason for lost work days from sickness in the U.K (Office of National Statistics) with 27 million out of a total of 131 million work days lost annually due to URTI with a financial cost running into many billions. Similarly, UTRI’s are the single most common reason for the average of 7 lost days from school through absenteeism (average of 4.8% of school days lost to illness per pupil per year.) As well as lost educational opportunities for the child, the requirement for care often means forced work absenteeism for one or both parents. (Department of Education National Statistics 2013) The picture of UTRI’s having significant negative societal impact is completed by them being the most common reason to consult a GP, with child sufferers being the most common consultations of all. Easton and Saxena 2010.

Characteristics and treatment of UTRI’s

Upper respiratory tract infections typified by coughs and colds and characterised by symptoms of sore throat, coughing, sneezing, blocked or runny nose, are our most common infections with each adult suffering from an average of 2-3 episodes and year and young children having between 3-8 episodes per year. The symptoms persist for between 3-10 days although coughing can sometimes extend to several weeks.

UTRI are caused by a wide variety of viruses, which is why they are so common and also the reason why there is no real treatment, other than simple symptom management with painkillers, (paracetamol, ibuprofen), cough syrups, and nasal decongestants, which often only have a very limited effect.

However it is well recognised that these treatments are of very limited effect, and hence the obvious route to attack the burden of disease is to decrease both the risk of developing symptoms and also reduce both the intensity and duration of any illness which does occur.

Probiotics – can they prevent coughs and colds?

This interest has been provoked by increasing evidence from a number of well conducted studies that probiotics containing Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are consistently effective in reducing both incidence and duration, of coughs and colds in children and adults alike, as illustrated by a recent review of 20 studies concluded that probiotics reduced the total number of days of illness by an average of 30% (King et al 2014)

The Aim of the ‘ProChild’ Probiotic study

The aim of the ‘ProChild’ study was to show that the Lab4 group of probiotic strains had the capability of significantly reducing the symptoms of coughs and colds - in young children – who are most susceptible age group. Logically, if it was effective for this group, then it would be effective for all other age groups too. Results of the Fit for School Trial. 57 children aged between 3-7 years took part in this study, with 34 taking one blackcurrant flavoured chewable tablet of ProVen Fit For School every day for 6 months. The results were both exciting and persuasive with a 50% reduction in total symptoms of coughs and colds (Fig 1) , as well as 33% reduction numbers of episodes of cold symptoms (Fig 2) being observed. Consequently, there were also significant reductions in the use of cough and cold medications as well as a 50% reduction in the need for antibiotics (Figs 3 and 4)

ProChild Figure 1

ProChild Figure 2ProChild Figure 3ProChild Figure 4

Practical Results of the ProChild Study

Remarkably, absenteeism from school due to coughs and colds alone was virtually halved with an average of 14.2 days absence reduced to 7.5 days in those children taking the probiotic.  This meant that overall absenteeism due to any illness was significantly reduced by 42% in the Lab4 group. 

ProChild Absent Days

Finally, the profound impact on health from the use of the probiotic was expressed in the number of visits to the G.P for any reason being reduced by 43%.

ProChild GP Visits

The children in the Lab4 study were aged 3-7 years, but it is highly likely that exactly the same benefits in prevention of coughs and colds  will be seen in all children up to 18 years. Indeed, the Lab4 mixture of probiotic strains used in this study has also been shown to provide extensive benefits to adults including reduction in symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and also in helping to re-balance the intestinal population of friendly bacteria following the use of antibiotics. 

Reasons For Children Taking Fit For School

This new study confirms and expands on the results found in previous trials and provides ample reasons for seriously considering giving your child a probiotic as the new school year approaches. With no side effects even in young children, and other potential benefits to health, it may even be something to provide for the whole family. 

  1. Reduction in incidence and duration of coughs and colds
  2. Reduced absenteeism from school
  3. Reduction in use of cough and cold remedies and also antibiotic use.
  4. Reduction in visits to the doctor. 
  5. Reduction in need for child care.

To read the full paper on the study:

Garaiova I et al. Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study.