Acute diarrhea a major cause of death among babies in developing countries can be dramatically reduced if "good guy" bacteria called bifidobacteria is added to the supplement feed. The bacteria can also help the child shed the rotavirus which causes
The supplements, B bifidum and S thermophilus, are found naturally in breast fed babies which suggests a baby nursed by a well nourished mother has all the protection he needs against life threatening diarrhea.
However, the new study which made the discovery was monitoring infants up to two years of age who were admitted to a chronic unit at the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Some were given ordinary formula, while the rest had the formula with the bacteria supplements. Only 7 per cent on the supplemented formula developed diarrhea, against 31 per cent given ordinary formula, whereas 39 per cent of those on the supplements also went on to shed the rotavirus.
The study, led by Dr Jose Saavedra at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, also in Baltimore, added that many of the children who were part of the study were malnourished or immunocompromised because of underlying disease.