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The societal costs of the common cold

With the publication of the world’s largest clinical study on the immune effect of probiotics in adults, we have obtained results indicating that the probiotic strain named L. CASEI 431® can shorten the duration of the common cold and influenza-like illness, potentially lowering the use of health care resources and reducing the need for antibiotics.


The socio-economics of common colds 

From a bottle of cough syrup to missed time at work and school, the price tag of catching a cold can add up. In the US, studies have estimated the annual cost of the common cold to be between 25-40 billion USD per year and approx. 70-120 million lost work days1. While an often-overlooked cause of health-related productivity losses, the socio-economic costs of the common cold exceed other and more severe health conditions such as asthma, heart failure, and emphysema.

In addition to the burden on government healthcare expenditures, the increased use of antibiotics to treat the common cold and influenza-like symptoms also contributes to developing antibiotic resistance – an area of growing public health concern. 

What are probiotics?

The word “Probiotics” is derived from Greek and means ‘for life’ as opposed to antibiotics which means ‘against life.’ Probiotics are defined as ‘live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’ (FAO/WHO 2001).

How the right probiotic strain may help

To better understand the role that probiotics, also known as “good bacteria”, can play in addressing global health challenges, we conducted the world’s largest study on the immune effect of probiotics in adults in 2011. 

Results from the study indicate that in cases of common colds and influenza-like illness, the number of sick days was reduced from eight days in the placebo group compared to five in the group that consumed a daily dairy beverage with 1 billion live bacteria (L. CASEI 431®). Furthermore, the proportion of subjects who used the healthcare system during the follow-up period was reduced from 28% to 22%.

Not only is this a clear benefit for individuals, but it also indicates that products with this probiotic strain can have a significant impact on productivity in society.


Small microbes, big impact

The L. CASEI 431® probiotic strain has been used as an ingredient in food since 1995, and it is gaining popularity as a natural probiotic culture in dairy products, principally in China and Southeast Asia.

“L. CASEI 431® stands out as a strong probiotic strain within the strengthening of the immune function. The product is consumed by approx. three million consumers, mostly in Asia. If each of these people took three days less off work and did not have to see the doctor, it would be a significant benefit, not only to the individual household but to society at large,” says Lars Bredmose, Sr. Director, Dairy Health & Nutrition.

We continue to be committed to developing and further advancing natural, probiotic solutions with positive health benefits, both as dietary supplements and as food ingredients.



1 "Productivity Losses Related to the Common Cold" (JOEM, vol. 44, no. 9, pp. 822-9, Sept. 2002) and “The Economic Burden of Non–-Influenza-Related Viral Respiratory Tract Infection in the United States” (Arch Intern Med., 2003; 163 (4): 487-494).