Daily intake of probiotics may help reduce costs associated with flu-like sickness

Father with two kids talking health economy and probiotics
6 Min read

A new health economics study suggests that consumption of probiotics may help reduce the costs associated with flu-like sickness.1 In the US alone, taking probiotics was shown to reduce the number of sick days by over 54 million days per year.1


When people suffer from flu-like sickness, on average, they miss 1.7 days of work.2

Flu-like sickness is common and poses an economic burden

Flu-like sickness is a wide-ranging category including a fever of at least 100°F (37.8°C) and a cough or sore throat.3 In 2018, it was estimated that over the previous 5 years, the average number of symptomatic cases in the US was 33 million/year.4

Flu-like sickness is frequent and can be severe. Even when excluding hospitalizations, it poses a substantial burden on families, societies, and economies due to the costs associated with doctor consultations, medicine prescriptions, and loss of productivity.5

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Probiotics may lower the risk of flu-like sickness

There is accumulating evidence that suggests that probiotics promote respiratory health, thereby lowering the incidence of flu-like sickness.6, 7, 8 Several clinical trials have demonstrated the beneficial impact of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® and Bifidobacterium, BB-12® (hereafter referred to by use of the trademarks LGG® and BB-12®) on the incidence and duration of flu-like sickness.9, 10, 11, 12

Flu-like sickness is caused by conditions such as respiratory tract infections.

The LGG® and BB-12® strains are associated with a reduced rate of flu-like sickness

In clinical trials, daily intake of LGG® at 1 billion CFU10, 11 has been associated with a significant reduction in the number of children with upper respiratory tract infections,11 the number of respiratory tract infections lasting longer than three days,10, 11 the duration of respiratory symptoms,11 and the number of gastrointestinal infections lasting more than two days.10 Children supplemented with LGG® also had significantly fewer days away from daycare due to illness, compared to the placebo group.11 Read more about LGG® and probiotics and respiratory health. 

A similar effect has been seen in adults.9 Following a 12-week intervention study in college students, those who received a combination of the LGG® and BB-12® strains (each at 1 billion CFU/day) had 33% fewer days with respiratory tract infection symptoms and rated their symptoms as significantly less severe, compared to those receiving placebo.9 Read more about BB-12® and boosting immune health with probiotics
men walking in the city with bike talking health economy and probiotics

Intake of probiotics may help reduce the cost of flu-like sickness

A recent US-based health economics study has shown that consumption of probiotics can help to reduce the costs associated with flu-like sickness.1 The study was based on data from two large, independent meta-analyses; one published by the York Health Economic Consortium7 and the other by Cochrane.8

The randomized controlled studies incorporated in these two high-quality reviews had investigated a total of 22 probiotic strains, including LGG® and BB-12®.7, 8 The economic analysis compared generalized probiotic intake versus no probiotic intake.1 A state-transition microsimulation model was implemented, which enabled the tracking of disease pathways for each participant and testing of cost savings from the reduction in the number of work days lost, visits to the doctor, and prescriptions in the US, related to probiotic use.1 

The health economics study demonstrated that, in the US alone, the use of probiotics is associated with reducing the annual number of sick days by over 54 million.1 Furthermore, the study suggests that the use of probiotics could help avoid approximately 2.2 million courses of antibiotics per year.1 This means that 1 in 3 of all US antibiotic prescriptions could be unnecessary, and probiotics could help to prevent antibiotic resistance.

Probiotics may provide economic benefits

These data suggest that if everyone living in America consumed probiotics, there would be a significant cost saving associated with flu-like sickness. Therefore, supplementing with probiotics may not only be beneficial to health,9, 10, 11, 12 but also may reduce societal and the economic burden.1


Read more about probiotics and boosting immune health


LGG® and BB-12® are registered trademarks of Chr. Hansen A/S.

The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG®

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® is the world’s most documented probiotic strain. The LGG® strain has proven benefits across all ages and numerous health areas, including gastrointestinal, immune and oral health.

LGG® is a registered trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S

LGG icon
Bifidobacterium, BB-12®

The probiotic strain Bifidobacterium, BB-12® is the world’s most documented probiotic bifidobacterium. It has been extensively studied and has been associated with improved outcomes across various health areas.

BB-12® is a trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S

BB-12 consumer logo TM

References Open Close

1. Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, et al. Probiotics Reduce Health Care Cost and Societal Impact of Flu-Like Respiratory Tract Infections in the USA: An Economic Modeling Study. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10(980). (PubMed)
2. Palmer LA, et al. Effect of influenza-like illness and other wintertime respiratory illnesses on worker productivity: The child and household influenza-illness and employee function (CHIEF) study. Vaccine. 2010;28(31):5049-56. (PubMed)
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimated Influenza Disease Burden, by Season – United States, 2013-14 through 2017-18.
4. Biggerstaff M, et al. Systematic Assessment of Multiple Routine and Near Real-Time Indicators to Classify the Severity of Influenza Seasons and Pandemics in the United States, 2003-2004 Through 2015-2016. Am J Epidemiol. 2018;187(5):1040-50. (PubMed)
5. Putri W, et al. Economic burden of seasonal influenza in the United States. Vaccine. 2018;36(27):3960-6. (PubMed)
6. Joint FAO/WHO Working Group Report on Drafting Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food. London, Ontario, Canada, 2002 April 30 and May 1.
7. King S, et al. Effectiveness of probiotics on the duration of illness in healthy children and adults who develop common acute respiratory infectious conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2014;112(1):41-54. (PubMed)
8. Hao Q, et al. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015(2):Cd006895. (PubMed)
9. Smith TJ, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. Br J Nutr. 2013;109(11):1999-2007. (PubMed)
10. Hojsak I, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of nosocomial gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections. Pediatrics. 2010;125(5):e1171-7. (PubMed)
11. Hojsak I, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2010;29(3):312-6. (PubMed)
12. Rautava S, et al. Specific probiotics in reducing the risk of acute infections in infancy--a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2009;101(11):1722-6. (PubMed)
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