University of Calgary

University leads major study to treat stomach flu in children using probiotics

UToday HomeJune 5, 2013

By Laura Herperger

Dr. Stephen Freedman, pediatrician and lead investigator in the probiotics study, visits with Jaime Smith and her son Rylen as the study is launched at the University of Calgary on Tuesday.Dr. Stephen Freedman, pediatrician and lead investigator in the probiotics study, visits with Jaime Smith and her son Rylen as the study is launched at the University of Calgary on Tuesday. Photo by Laura HerpergerKids get stomach flu. Most kids recover quickly. But a certain percentage of them end up in emergency seeking help for dehydration, extreme vomiting and high fevers. Last year, 3,000 kids visited the Alberta Children’s Hospital with severe gastroenteritis.

One of those visits was from Jaime Smith and 18-month-old Rylen. The toddler became ill in April and spent several days with bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. When it went on longer than seemed normal, Smith took her son to the Emergency Department at Alberta Children’s Hospital, where he was given fluids intravenously to help rehydrate him.

Smith also enrolled her son in Canada’s largest ever probiotics study with children, launched Tuesday by the University of Calgary along with five other hospitals across Canada.

“It’s hard to watch kids suffer,” Smith says. “I figured if having him in the study could help someone else down the road, then why not?

Study aims to make a child’s life better during the flu

Dr. Stephen Freedman of the University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute is preparing to begin the study this fall. He’s the lead investigator and is supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

“The goal of the study is to see if the child’s life is made better, especially during the first week after the emergency room visit,” Freedman says. “If we can do anything to get children back to school and shorten that two week period of illness, it will help ordinary families.”

About 900 children will be enrolled. The hospitals participating in the study are the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, CHU Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital Centre in Montreal, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

The study follows a successful pilot project in Toronto and Calgary that has enrolled more than 125 children, more than 60 of them in Calgary.

Using live bacteria strains

The study will use the agent Lacidofil manufactured by Institut Rosell-Lallemand and is a combination of two live bacteria strains that have shown promise in laboratory models of gastroenteritis as well as small clinical trials.

Most cases of diarrhea in children are caused by infections by a variety of viruses which alter the secretion, absorption, and movement of liquids in the intestines. Preliminary work with Lacidofil has shown that it reduces cell damage, prevents binding and invasion by the viruses to the cells and modulates the body’s immune response.

The children will be administered either ten doses of the probiotic agent Lacidofil, or an identical placebo agent, and will be monitored for two weeks to measure a comprehensive list of observable outcomes. The study is expected to continue for three years.


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