Since 20014, a prospective study in the United States and Europe has evaluated type-1 diabetes (T1DM)-related autoantibodies in children (Uusitalo, et al. 2016). These antibodies are proteins made by a person’s immune system that attack that person’s own insulin-secreting (islet) cells. A blood test for these antibodies is an indicator of T1DM. This study, called the TEDDY Study, seeks to determine Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young.
Blood samples from over 7000 children between 3 and 48 months of age who were enrolled in the TEDDY study were collected to determine levels of autoantibodies. In addition, researchers collected details of how the children were fed as infants, including any probiotic consumption.
When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that probiotic use during the first 27 days of life was associated with lower antibodies against insulin-secreting cells in children who were genetically at increased risk for T1DM.
The researchers hypothesized that it may be possible to influence the microbiota of very young children with probiotics, resulting in favorable interactions among resident bacteria or between colonizing bacteria and the host. Of course, this study is a prospective study, and reveals only associations, not causality. Therefore, a controlled clinical trial is needed to confirm if probiotic consumption actually leads to a reduced risk. The information gathered did not allow differentiation among different strains or species of probiotics, so it is not possible from this study to identify an optimal probiotic for further studies.
Uusitalo U, Liu X, Yang J, Aronsson CA, Hummel S, Butterworth M, Lernmark Å, Rewers M, Hagopian W, She JX, Simell O, Toppari J, Ziegler AG, Akolkar B, Krischer J, Norris JM, Virtanen SM; TEDDY Study Group. Association of Early Exposure of Probiotics and Islet Autoimmunity in the TEDDY Study. JAMA Pediatr. 2016 Jan 1;170(1):20-8. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2757.