The study needs women who are less than 16 weeks pregnant (ideally about 12 weeks) and is being carried out by the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland in Auckland, (and in Wellington by the Wellington Asthma Research Group).
“There is evidence that the increase in asthma, eczema and allery in New Zealand children is related to the cleaner environment we live in today where there is less contact with certain bacteria,” says the study’s lead investigator, Professor Ed Mitchell.
“In this study we want to see if giving probiotics (the live bacteria found in yoghurt) to pregnant and breastfeeding women, prevents allergies in early childhood,” he says. “We will also be looking at whether taking probiotics improves pregnancy outcomes for women, such as gestational diabetes.”
Women who are 14-16 weeks pregnant who agree to take part in the study will be randomly allocated either to an intervention group or a control group, selected by chance using a computer.
Both groups will be provided with capsules to be taken every day, supplied by the Fonterra Research Centre. The intervention groups’ capsules will contain a probiotic HN001, while the control group will be given capsules containing a placebo or inactive treatment. Both types of capsules are safe to take and look exactly the same.
Participants will be told which group they were in at the conclusion of the double blind trial (neither the researchers nor participants know who is in each group).
At the start of the study, participants are asked questions about their pregnancy, smoking and health history, and are given the first three month supply of capsules. They are given a new supply every three months throughout pregnancy and after birth until they stop breast-feeding or when their infant reaches six months old. The infants are not given the probiotic.
Follow-up visits are done by researchers at 27-29 weeks of the pregnancy, 3-7 days after birth and again at three, six and 12 months after birth. At the 12 month visit infants will be assessed for eczema and allergies.
This study was funded by the Health Research Council.
The University of Auckland