Bacteria may be the answer to combating some forms of allergy. It is hoped a study by the Wellington and Auckland schools of medicine will prove that probiotics – the bacteria used in yoghurts – will help to prevent babies from developing the allergy-related skin condition eczema.
Research head Julian Crane said that study, conducted in Wellington using 59 volunteers aged between 1 and 10, found that giving probiotics did seem to improve eczema in children who suffered from it.
The studies follow Finnish research which found probiotics seemed to be effective in preventing the onset of eczema in babies.
Professor Crane said it was not known for sure why probiotics, which are the opposite of antibiotics and found naturally in the human bowel, could have that effect on eczema.
But it was thought that because living conditions had become more sanitary, the levels of probiotics in people’s bowels were decreasing compared with 70 or 80 years ago.
Changes in diet, including more emphasis on hygienic food handling, might also have had an effect on probiotic levels.