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Study finds probiotics can boost health for babies in developing world

Allison Joyce / AP

A new study found targeted probiotics — strains of beneficial bacteria — can reduce sepsis and other potentially life-threatening conditions in newborns, per The Atlantic.

  • The study: In the largest trial of its kind, 4,557 Indian newborns were treated for just one week with a specially-developed "synbiotic," a probiotic strain boosted with a sugar, designed to take root in the infant gut.
  • By the numbers: The researchers calculated that their probiotic strain should reduce the risk of sepsis, which kills hundreds of thousands of newborns each year, by 25-50%. The study also saw significant and "completely unexpected" reductions in bacterial infections and pneumonia in treated newborns.
  • Why it matters: The treatment is a cheap, easily replicated way to ensure the health of newborns and reduce the usage of antibiotics in the developing world. Indeed, the trial was so successful that it was stopped early because it was considered unethical to prevent children from receiving the treatment.