Short term illnesses, usually caused by respiratory or gastrointestinal diseases are disruptive to productivity and there is relatively little focus on preventative measures. This study examined the effect of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri protectis (ATCC55730) on its ability to improve work-place healthiness by reducing short term sick-leave caused by respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.
262 employees at TetraPak in Sweden (day-workers and three-shift-workers) that were healthy at study start were randomised in a double-blind fashion to receive either a daily dose of 10^8 Colony Forming Units of Lactobacillus reuteri or placebo for 80 days. The study products were administered with a drinking straw. 181 subjects complied with the study protocol, 94 were randomised to receive Lactobacillus reuteri and 87 received placebo.
In the placebo group 26.4% reported sick-leave for the defined causes during the study as compared with 10.6% in the Lactobacillus reuteri group (p < 0.01). The frequency of sick-days was 0.9% in the placebo group and 0.4% in the Lactobacillus reuteri group (p < 0.01). Among the 53 shift-workers, 33% in the placebo group reported sick during the study period as compared with none in the Lactobacillus reuteri group(p < 0.005).
The present study demonstrates that Lactobacillus reuteri is effective to promote work-place healthiness. In the studied population sick-days caused by respiratory or gastrointestinal diseases could be reduced by 55% by the use of Lactobacillus reuteri group as compared with the placebo group. Translated to the total Swedish work-force, this translates to a total of 4.3 million working days of improved productivity per year (3.9 million employed, 220 working days per year and 0,5% “saved” days). Our results indicate that the effect on shift-work productivity could probably be even more profound but this issue should be addressed in further studies.