LONDON, April 1 /PRNewswire/ --
An expert report released today recommends that patients taking antibiotics, especially those being treated in hospital, should take a daily probiotic drink with clinically proven effectiveness. The report summarises a meeting which took place at the Royal Society of Medicine, London and was attended by a multidisciplinary panel of eight leading health experts.
The meeting discussed current data surrounding the health benefits of dairy probiotic drinks, including latest studies focusing on the benefits of probiotics on antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhoea, colds and flu, and even cancer. As well as recommending probiotic drinks for people taking antibiotics in hospital, the panel concluded that probiotic drinks may benefit patients taking antibiotics in the community setting, and also called for additional research into this area.
It is well established that antibiotics can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria living in the intestine, making it easier for pathogens, or bad bacteria, to grow. In light of this, diarrhoea is a common side effect of antibiotics, especially when administered in hospitals where 5-30 per cent of patients develop this symptom, the rate increasing with broader-spectrum antibiotics.(1) The effect on the patient may include a longer hospital stay, an increased risk of other infections and diseases and significant increases to the costs of patient care.
In 20-30 per cent of cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, the cause is the Clostridium difficile pathogen,(2) which can even lead to death, especially in older persons. However, there is growing evidence to support the positive influence of taking probiotic drinks, also known as good bacteria, as they can help people taking antibiotics offset the bad bacteria in their intestine, thereby reducing the risk and severity of diarrhoea.
Commenting on the report, Professor of Human Nutrition Research at the University of Reading, Ian Rowland said: "There is a growing bank of evidence to support the positive effects that probiotics have on antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. By studying this evidence as well as various patient case studies, the expert group were led to conclude that patients should take probiotics during and after their hospital stay to reduce the risk of acquiring antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, or if required, its severity and duration. In addition to this, there may also be reason to believe that a daily probiotic may also benefit those on antibiotics in the community, however further research is still needed in this area."
When selecting a probiotic drink, people should choose one with a strain that has proven clinical evidence as benefits are strain-specific. There is also evidence to show that yoghurt or fermented milk based probiotics may offer advantages over freeze dried capsules in that they may also provide potentially beneficial fermentation products.
In addition to antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, the expert panel also looked at other research and case studies where probiotics have been shown to offer beneficial effects. This included the benefits probiotics can offer older persons, especially those at risk of flu in winter, as well as evidence that exists to support probiotic use in reducing the duration and severity of diarrhoea in children. The panel agreed that both groups could benefit from taking a daily probiotic drink.
Professor Ian Rowland concludes: "In summary, the experts agreed that there are no harmful effects from taking probiotic drinks and evidence suggests that they may offer health benefits for people taking them. Further research is needed to examine the role of probiotic drinks in preventative care and health maintenance as well as in the treatment of other conditions."
Notes to Editors
The multidisciplinary panel of health experts included the following members:
- Ian Rowland, Chair, Professor of Human Nutrition Research, Reading
- Lisa Melton, Research Immunologist, London
- Juliet Gray, Registered public health nutritionist, Guildford
- Chris Bulpitt, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric and Cardiovascular Medicine, Imperial College London
- Mary Hickson, Research Dietician, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London
- Mike Smith, Specialist in Preventative Medicine, General Practitioner and Freelance Journalist, London
- Julie Foxton, Specialist Community Public Health Nurse/Health Visitor, Reading
- Satish Keshav, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Oxford
- Two members of the panel, Dr Mary Hickson and Prof Chris Bulpitt, were authors of a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published recently in the British Medical Journal that showed, for people over 50, drinking a probiotic containing the strain L. casei DN 114 001 (Danone Actimel(R)) twice-daily significantly reduced the incidence of all diarrhoea by 22 per cent and C. difficile-associated diarrhoea by 17 per cent.(3)
(1) McFarland LV, Beneda HW, Clarridge JE, et al. Implications of the changing face of Clostridium difficile disease for health care practitioners. Am J Infect Control 2007;35:235-53.
(2) McFarland, LV. Diarrhoea associated with antibiotic use: Evidence supports the use of probiotics, but effectiveness depends on the strain. BMJ 2007;335:54-55.
(3) Hickson, M, et al. Use of probiotic Lactobacillus preparation to prevent diarrhoea associated with antibiotics: randomised double blind placebo controlled trial. BMJ 2007; 335:80-83.
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