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Probiotics Associated with Lower Risk of Antibiotics-Induced Diarrhea

May 31, 2013 09:29 AM EDT
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Taking probiotic supplements along with an antibiotic regimen can help reduce the risk of diarrhea, says a new study review.

Researchers in the present study found that there were fewer cases of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections in people who were taking probiotics along with antibiotics.

Probiotics are microbes, usually bacteria, which are considered beneficial to human health.

C. difficile-associated diarrhoea (CDAD) is a result of the antibiotics killing good bacteria in the guts and letting the bad ones grow. This infection is expensive to treat and so taking probiotics, as shown by this Cochrane systematic review, may be a cheap way of preventing this infection.

The C. difficile infections were studied in 23 trials that included more than 4,000 adults and children. Results showed that probiotics along with antibiotics reduced the number of people with diarrhea by 64 percent. Six percent of the people who took a placebo had CDAD when taking antibiotics, compared with just 2 percent who had taken probiotics.

"In the short-term, taking probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics appears to be a safe and effective way of preventing diarrhoea associated with Clostridium difficile infection. The introduction of some probiotic regimens as adjuncts to antibiotics could have an immediate impact on patient outcomes, especially in outbreak settings. However, we still need to establish the probiotic strains and doses that provide the best results, and determine the safety of probiotics in immunocompromised patients," said Bradley Johnston of The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto, Canada and lead author of the study.

Using probiotics while on treatment with antibiotics may prevent diarrhea, said a recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

Researchers said that probiotics just control the symptoms of a C. difficile infection rather than preventing the infection.

"We think it's possible that probiotics act to prevent the symptoms of C. difficile infection rather than to prevent the infection itself," said Johnston in a news release. "This possibility needs to be investigated further in future trials, which should help us to understand more about how probiotics work."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't approved of the use of probiotics, and consumers are advised to consult their physicians before starting any probiotics.

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