Clinical trial to test probiotic effect against infection

Related tags Bacteria

A major, randomised trial to assess the effectiveness of probiotic
bacteria in reducing infections in intensive care patients, the
first such study to be carried out in the US, may help to expand
applications for the supplement to the medical sector.

It could also add further to the body of evidence supporting the immune-boosting effects of the bacteria.

The study, being designed by a team at the Medical College of Georgia, will test the effects of both probiotics and symbiotics (probiotics paired with prebiotics), on 400 patients recovering from surgery.

Probiotic therapy has been accepted in other countries but it has not caught on in 'the germ-vigilant' US, according to lead investigator Dr Robert G. Martindale, a gastrointestinal surgeon and nutritionist :"Americans don't like the concept".

The bacteria are available as supplements to consumers but there is little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to get involved.

Yet when people are admitted to intensive care on broad-spectrum antibiotics, about 25 to 40 per cent of them will get an infection with a resistant bacteria during their stay, says Martindale.

Antibiotics can also wipe out the natural bacterial flora in the intestinal tract, a disruption with widespread consequences including making the intestinal lining more susceptible to bacterial invasion, impacting the health of colon cells and disarming the immune system.

"We know very well that the source of sepsis in these patients, 50 to 70 per cent of the time, is their own intestines,"​ added the researcher.

Probiotics have previously been shown to prevent the diarrhoea symptoms associated with the use of antibiotics.

The new research will enroll a total of 400 patients to receive either a placebo, probiotic supplement or a symbiotic, twice a day for 10 days.

Dr Martindale added that the American lifestyle in general, with its emphasis on cleanliness and a diet low in fiber and high in refined, processed food, is also weakening the natural, protective mechanisms of the gut and surrounding immune cells.

"Humans that eat a good mixed diet with lots of fiber have plenty of Lactobacillus plantarum. Americans have little,"​ he noted.

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