Dr. Marc Rhoads
Dr. Marc Rhoads

Medical School researchers have begun a study investigating whether a probiotic might be helpful in reducing gut inflammation in infants with colic.

“Colic affects about 15 percent of otherwise normal infants. The condition has a terrible impact on the parents and may be one factor linked to a doubling of the number of infanticides over the past three decades,” said Dr. Marc Rhoads, professor and director of pediatric gastroenterology and director of the Endoscopy Laboratory at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “While reflux, which causes irritability, might be helped with a liquid acid blocker, a placebo-controlled study showed that crying time in babies with colic does not improve with acid blocker treatment.”

Colic is defined as inconsolable crying of a baby more than 3 weeks old for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for more than three weeks.

In previous research, Rhoads and associates found that Houston babies they studied cried for an average of five hours daily and had intestinal inflammation associated with an abnormal population of resident bacteria in their stools. This latter finding, called “dysbiosis,” was confirmed using a deep sequencing method by a research group in Holland.  The study will determine the safety of a probiotic – a health-promoting bacteria – called Lactobacillus reuteri and measure its effect on gut inflammation.

“The gastrointestinal tract of infants, particularly preterm infants, is highly vulnerable because they haven’t completely developed their ability to distinguish beneficial commensal bacteria from harmful ones that cause diarrhea,” Rhoads said. “We theorize that lactobacillus reuteri can restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut and decrease the inflammation and excess hydrogen gas that are causing pain.”

The study will enroll 40 infants between the ages of 3 weeks and 3 months who are otherwise healthy and mainly or partially breastfed. The infants will be enrolled through the UT Physicians Colic Clinic at UTHealth. The probiotic, made in Sweden, will be provided free of charge and safety will be monitored.

For information on the study, please call 713.500.5669. To make an appointment at the Colic Clinic, located in The University of Texas Professional Building, 6410 Fannin, please call 832.525.2617.

 -Deborah Mann Lake, Office of Public Affairs, Media Relations