As the dreaded flu-season knocks on our door, a new study reveals a secret weapon to reduce the cost of flu-like sickness

Press ReleaseAug 28. 2019 07:22 GMT

A new health economics study shows that the intake of probiotics can help reduce the cost of flu-like sickness. In the US alone, taking probiotics can reduce the number of sick days by over 54 million days per year, according to the study.

Flu-like sickness can take its toll on workforce productivity, health care systems and families with young children, and is estimated to have an annual burden on the US economy of $11.2 billion1 .

Data from numerous studies already shows a positive correlation between taking certain probiotics and reducing the number of incidents, duration and severity of flu-like sickness2+3. This new study builds upon existing data, to assess the potential health economic impact of probiotics in the US primary care setting. The findings show the significant savings potential taking probiotics can have by reducing the number of sick days, visits to the doctor and prescriptions.

Flu-like sickness is a heavy burden on society
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. On average over the last 5 years, there have been 33 million symptomatic cases in the US each year4.

“Probiotics are already well established in the healthcare industry, and numerous studies have highlighted the therapeutic potential of specific probiotic strains in helping to maintain a healthy immune system and supporting the defense against harmful bacteria. In addition to the health benefits to an individual, this study demonstrates that taking probiotics also contributes to reducing costs to society and reducing the use of antibiotics. We believe that the impact of probiotics on healthcare will continue to grow in the years to come as we continue to unlock the potential of good bacteria,” says Andrew Scorey, senior vice president, Chr. Hansen Human Health.

Taking probiotics can help reduce antibiotic prescriptions by 30%5
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today, and it is expected to exceed cancer as the main cause of death by 2050. It is estimated that more than 1 in 3 of the antibiotics prescribed to treat flu-like sickness in the US are redundant5.

The new study reveals that in the US, some 2.2 million antibiotic courses could be avoided each year if the population takes probiotics.

“We already know that the overuse of antibiotics can cause bacteria to become resistant, meaning current treatments will no longer work. This study provides further evidence of how probiotics and ‘good bacteria’ can respond to some of the world’s biggest challenges,” adds Scorey.

New simulation model
The results of the study are published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology and were authored and reviewed by independent industry and academic experts. Chr. Hansen sponsored the development of a new simulation model used in the study. The publication title is: Probiotics reduce healthcare cost and societal impact of flu-like respiratory tract infections in the USA: An economic modeling study.

The underlying data used in the study came from two independent reviews: York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) and Cochrane2+3. The clinical trials in these reviews used 22 probiotic strains, including Chr. Hansen’s Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium animalis.

“This study builds on independent clinical trials and translates the clinical findings into cost and impact on primary health care. The results present a very strong case for probiotics. At Chr. Hansen, we will continue to build on these findings looking closely into how specific strains can support this health area. As a result of this study, we now have a new simulation model that will provide us with new ways to work with data in future studies,” explains Adam Baker, senior manager, Human Health Development at Chr. Hansen.

Chr. Hansen owns some of the world’s best documented probiotic strains. The large number of scientific publications and clinical studies on these strains indicate that they may have beneficial effects on the immune functions.

1) Putri WCWS et al. 2018. Economic burden of seasonal influenza in the United States. Vaccine.

2) Hao et al. 2015. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane database of systematic reviews.

3) King et al. 2014. 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. British journal of nutrition.

4) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Estimated Influenza Disease Burden, by Season – United States, 2013-14 through 2017-18

5) CDC newsroom. 2016. CDC: 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions unnecessary.


Chr. Hansen is a leading, global bioscience company that develops natural ingredient solutions for the food, nutritional, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. We develop and produce cultures, enzymes, probiotics and natural colors for a rich variety of foods, confectionery, beverages, dietary supplements and even animal feed and plant protection. Our product innovation is based on more than 30,000 microbial strains – we like to refer to them as ‘good bacteria’. Our solutions enable food manufacturers to produce more with less – while also reducing the use of chemicals and other synthetic additives – which make our products highly relevant in today’s world. Sustainability is an integral part of Chr. Hansen’s vision to improve food and health. In 2019 Chr. Hansen was ranked as the world’s most sustainable company by Corporate Knights thanks to our strong sustainability efforts and our many collaborative partnerships with our customers. We have been delivering value to our partners – and, ultimately, end consumers worldwide – for over 140 years. We are proud that more than one billion people consume products containing our natural ingredients every day. Revenue in the 2017/18 financial year was EUR 1,097 million. Chr. Hansen was founded in 1874 and is listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen.