Probiotics administered to critically ill patients in intensive care units show no benefit in preventing the colonisation of drug-resistant microbes in the intestinal tract, according to US research.
Probiotics – live microorganisms believed to help restore the balance of intestinal bacteria and increase resistance to harmful germs – were given to patients twice daily for up to two weeks.
“With fewer therapies available to treat multidrug-resistant organisms, innovative methods to prevent or eliminate gastrointestinal colonisation are necessary”
But they were no more effective than not giving probiotics, according to researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.
The pilot study, published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, followed 70 patients admitted to ICU.
Researchers studied whether the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG could prevent the intestinal colonization of superbugs such as Clostridium difficile, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Patients were randomly assigned to receive probiotics and routine care or routine care alone. The researchers then monitored whether the microbes took up residence in the intestinal tract.
The drug-resistant microbes colonised the intestinal tracts of 10% of patients in the probiotic group and 15% in the standard-care group – a difference that was not statistically significant.
Lead study author Jennie Kwon said: “Probiotic use is an intriguing topic. With fewer therapies available to treat multidrug-resistant organisms, innovative methods to prevent or eliminate gastrointestinal colonisation are necessary.
“Although our findings suggest that probiotics do not help prevent gastrointestinal colonization with drug-resistant organisms in critically ill patients, further study is necessary in this field,” she said.