Taking "good" bacteria known as probiotics may help prevent diarrhea brought on by a tough-to-treat infection that often results from taking antibiotics, according to a new look at past research.
Researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto, Canada.
Found that for older patients in hospital or in nursing homes who are exposed to antibiotics, certain probiotics regimens at certain dosages result in large reductions in the incidence of C. difficile-associated diarrhea.
People who take antibiotics are at risk for losing some of the good bacteria that lives in their guts and that allows Clostridium difficile bacteria (or C. difficile, to grow), especially after a stay at the hospital.
The infection's symptoms typically include stomach cramps and diarrhea. In severe cases, the colon becomes inflamed.
For the new review, the researchers analyzed data from 23 studies that included 4,213 adults and children taking antibiotics. The studies that were included in the review split the participants into two groups. One group took probiotics along with their antibiotics, and the other did not.
Overall, the researchers found taking probiotics didn't change the number of people who went on to develop C. difficile, which was about 13 percent in each group. It did, however, lead to a significant drop in those who had diarrhea.
The researchers found only 2 percent of people who took probiotics developed diarrhea related to C. difficile. That compared to 6 percent of people who didn't take probiotics.
These results, however, don't apply to all probiotics. Every strain of probiotics has different traits and effects in the body. Two of the probiotics that led to the greatest benefit were Saccharomyces boulardii and a combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei.
Otherwise healthy patients needed at least 10 billion colony-forming bacteria per day to see an effect, the amount in 2-4 pills per day.
SOURCE: The Cochrane Library, online May 30, 2013.
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