Probiotics a possible treatment for jaundice in newborn babies: Chinese meta-analysis

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

Newborns with jaundice could benefit from probiotic supplementation. ©iStock
Newborns with jaundice could benefit from probiotic supplementation. ©iStock
Probiotic supplementation might be able to safely and effectively treat jaundice in babies, a Chinese systematic review and meta-analysis found, but researchers say better quality data is required.

Researchers from Sichuan University analysed published papers on 13 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that had tested the effects of probiotic supplementation on pathological neonatal jaundice — a potentially fatal paediatric disease — in 1,067 newborns.

As the disease is rather common, but there is little evidence of probiotics’ effect on bilirubin levels in newborns (used to determine the cause of jaundice), the researchers aimed to systematically evaluate their safety and efficacy.

They found that probiotic supplementation “showed efficacy”​ in treating neonatal jaundice, lowering the subjects’ total serum bilirubin levels after three days. This was in addition to probiotics’ ability to enhance immunity “mainly by regulating bacterial colonies”​.

The researchers said their results “provided evidence that the combination of routine complementary treatment with probiotic supplementation therapy…had an obvious increase of efficacy rate in neonatal jaundice”​.

Side effects

However, only two of the reviewed RCTs showed a reduction in the duration of phototherapy treatment time after supplementation, while only three of the RCTs found that it had managed to help shorten the overall length of the subjects’ hospital stay.

Additionally, only six of the studies reported that the newborns experienced no side effects whatsoever from probiotic supplementation, while five “observed 20 cases of adverse reactions presented as fever, diarrhoea, skin rash (and) fatigue”​.

Improvements needed

The researchers acknowledged several limitations of their analysis, one of which was the short observation period of the reviewed RCTs, which did not pursue long-term follow-up with their patients.

They also said the methodological quality of RCTs on probiotic supplementation for neonatal jaundice needed to be improved, recommending better designed future studies for this purpose.

They further suggested that rare and serious adverse reactions to probiotic supplementation for pathological neonatal jaundice be observed via epidemiological studies.

They concluded that while probiotic supplementation might be a safe, effective therapy option for the treatment of pathological neonatal jaundice, the varying quality of the reviewed RCTs meant that “long-term and high-quality research”​ on the topic was still necessary.

 

Source: Frontiers in Pharmacology

https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2017.00432

“Probiotics Supplementation Therapy for Pathological Neonatal Jaundice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”

Authors: Zhe Chen, et al.

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