Probiotics show potential to minimize C. difficile

by Veronica Mcguire

(Medical Xpress)—New cases of C. difficile-associated diarrhea among hospitalized patients taking antibiotics can be reduced by two-thirds with the use of probiotics, according to new research published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

" are not a , but these results suggest therapeutic probiotic agents, as well as some yogurts and probiotic dairy products, may be vastly under-used in some nursing homes and hospitals," says lead author Bradley Johnston, assistant professor in the Department of and , and a scientist and clinical epidemiologist at SickKids Hospital in Toronto.

Johnston led a research team which compiled findings from 3,818 patients in 20 randomized-controlled trials. The trials tracked rates of probiotic use among in-patients and out-patients on antibiotics, and analyzed the rates of diarrheal illness associated with C. difficile. Probiotic powder and capsules, as well as yogurt, were included in the studies analyzed.

"That's why probiotics could be an effective, safe and relatively inexpensive approach to prevent C. difficile-associated diarrheal illness," says Johnston.

"The burden that this illness places on the and the impact it has on patients' morbidity and mortality are substantial. Our findings demonstrate that probiotics have the potential to save lives and improve the quality of life of hospitalized patients at risk of contracting C. difficile associated diarrhea," says Stephanie Ma, co-author and chief resident in Plastic and at McMaster.

No serious adverse side-effects were associated with the use of probiotics. Projected onto current rates, probiotic prophylaxis would prevent three episodes of C. difficile-associated diarrhea per 100 patients (or 33 fewer episodes per thousand).

"Because C. difficile forms spores, it is difficult to eradicate from the environment. Probiotics can be easily integrated into the diets of hospitalized patients," says co-author Dr. Mark Loeb, professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and division director of Infectious Diseases.

While treating and preventing infections, antibiotics can also destroy healthy bacteria in the colon. Probiotics help to reintroduce healthy bacteria.

Older hospitalized adults who are exposed to antibiotics are most at risk of serious C. difficile infection. It accounts for up to half of all diarrheal illness in hospital, and is a significant cause of illness and death in hospitalized adults.

Related Stories

Doctors identify patients at high risk of C. difficile

Apr 01, 2009

Doctors have developed and validated a clinical prediction rule for recurrent Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection that was simple, reliable and accurate, and can be used to identify high-risk patients most likely t ...

Recommended for you

Girls in Colombian town struck by mystery illness

1 hour ago

A mystery illness has overwhelmed a small town in northern Colombia as scores of teenage girls have been hospitalized with symptoms that parents fear could be an adverse reaction to a popular vaccine against cervical cancer.

Oral contraceptive equal to antibiotics for acne care

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—At six months, oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are comparable to systemic antibiotics for acne management, according to a review published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Ac ...

Photodynamic therapy vs. cryotherapy for actinic keratoses

10 hours ago

Photodynamic therapy (PDT, which uses topical agents and light to kill tissue) appears to better clear actinic keratoses (AKs, a common skin lesion caused by sun damage) at three months after treatment than cryotherapy (which ...

US official warns Ebola outbreak will get worse

12 hours ago

A third top doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday, as a leading American health official warned that the outbreak sweeping West Africa would get worse before it ...

User comments