Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School are investigating whether a probiotic might be helpful in reducing gut inflammation in breast-fed infants with colic.
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.
“Colic affects about 15 percent of otherwise normal infants. The condition has a terrible impact on both parents and infants 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 gastroesophageal reflux, which causes irritability, might sometimes 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.”
In previous research, Rhoads and associates found that the 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 by a research group in Holland using a deep sequencing technique that will be used in the current UTHealth studies.
“The gastrointestinal tract of infants, particularly preterm infants, is highly vulnerable because they haven’t completely developed their ability to distinguish beneficial bacteria from harmful ones that cause diarrhea. There is a study in Europe determining if early neonatal antibiotic exposure is a predisposing factor for colic,” Rhoads said. “We theorize that Lactobacillus reuteri can restore the normal richness and diversity of bacteria in the gut and decrease the inflammation and excess hydrogen gas that are causing pain.”
The colic study is a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study with the ratio of probiotic to placebo recipients 2-to-1.
Tamara Carter was referred to the UT Physicians Colic Clinic because her baby, Lee, would not stop crying. She was exhausted and shocked that Lee cried so much more than her daughter had when she was young. After enrolling Lee in the study, Tamara said her life changed.
“It’s like he’s a new baby, and he only cries when he’s hungry now. All my friends and family can’t believe how much he has changed. I don’t know where we would be without this program,” Carter said.
The colic study is enrolling 40 infants between the ages of 3 weeks and 3 months who are otherwise healthy and mainly breast-fed. The infants are enrolled through the UT Physicians Colic Clinic. The probiotic, made in Sweden, will be provided free of charge in the study. Safety will be monitored.
For information on the colic 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.
-Hannah Rhodes, Office of Public Affairs