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Times of India
23 August 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India

Good bacteria could now help Indian children’s fight against one of its worst healthcare challenges, diarrhoea. In what is, by far, the largest trial conducted in India to understand the health benefits of probiotics (good bacteria)–live microorganisms that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut–researchers have found that diarrhoeal episodes dipped by 14% in children aged five years or below, by consuming probiotics for only three months.

Jointly conducted by National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Kolkata, and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the doubleblind, randomised controlled trial, involving 3,758 children aged between one and five years was conducted in an urban slum community in Kolkata.

Participants were given either a probiotic drink containing 6.5 billion Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota or a nutrient drink daily for 12 weeks. The exercise was followed up for another 12 weeks.

The level of protective efficacy for the probiotic was 14%. "The primary outcome of the study suggested that daily intake of a probiotic drink can play a role in prevention of acute diarrhoea in young children in a community setting of a developing country," said Dr D Sur, lead investigator of the study.

The study published recently in a US medical journal said, "Theoretically a number of time–proven intervention strategies like hand washing, provision of safe drinking water and sanitation are known to reduce morbidity caused by acute diarrhoea. However, the implementation of these tools in resource–poor settings continues to be a formidable challenge. Therefore, there is a need for the implementation of alternative strategies for prevention of acute diarrhoea."

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