BABIES may be less likely to get the itchy skin rash eczema if their mothers take probiotics during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Researchers in Finland said it is possible that probiotics -- which are thought to help balance bacteria populations in the gut and prevent disease-causing strains from spreading -- may influence babies' health through immune cells that cross the placenta and later are passed in breast milk.
Samuli Rautava, of Turku University Central Hospital, assigned 241 pregnant women to take one of two different probiotic combinations, given as a powder mixed with water, or a bacteria-free placebo powder.
All of the mothers-to-be had a history of allergies, so their babies were at extra-high risk of eczema.
The women drank their assigned concoction for the last two months of pregnancy and their first two months of breastfeeding. Researchers then tracked their babies' health for two years to see how many developed rashes.
By the end of the study, 71pc of babies in the placebo group had eczema at least once, compared to 29pc of babies whose mother took either probiotic combination. Chronic eczema was diagnosed in 26pc of placebo kids, compared to 10pc and 6pc respectively of those in the probiotic groups.
However, by age two there was no difference in kids' sensitivities to a range of allergens, including milk, wheat, soy and dog and cat dander, based on whether their mothers had taken the supplements.