Probiotics to Treat Infectious Diarrhea
Probiotics have been found to be a safe intervention to reduce the duration and severity of acute infectious diarrhea.
According to a recent systematic Cochrane review carried out by a group of researchers led by Prof. S. J. Allen, administering friendly bacterial (probiotic) therapies reduced the severity of bacterial infections and also ensured that the diarrhea does not exceed to more than four days.
Probiotics are preparations of the cell components of microbes that have a beneficial effect on the host. It must be noted that probiotic bacteria are found in plenty in natural food sources too, such as yogurt.
Acute Infectious Diarrhea
Diarrhea is a condition characterized by watery, loose or pasty stools. It is more prevalent among children in developing countries.
In the majority of instances, the disease is self-limiting and no investigations are usually carried out to identify the organism involved.
A study by Lopez (2006) has revealed that in low- and middle-income countries, diarrheal diseases were responsible for 1.78 million deaths (3.7% of total deaths) - and that too among children below age 5.
Acute infectious diarrhea is more grave and is caused by infectious agents such as E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, Campylobacter, Vibrio cholerae, Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
Rehydration and antibiotics administration are the traditional methods of treating diarrhea.
Sources of study
Sources of the study includes the following -
• Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group's trials register (July 2010),
• the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library Issue 2, 2010),
• MEDLINE (1966 to July 2010),
• EMBASE (1988 to July 2010),
• Organizations / individuals working in the field
• Pharmaceutical companies manufacturing probiotic agents.
Objectives & Method
The scientists reviewed data derived from 63 randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials (involving 8,014 patients), to assess the effects of probiotics on those with acute infectious diarrhea.
Of these 56 trials were based on children and infants.
The study was carried out in the following way -
• By comparing a specific probiotic agent with a placebo in those with proven, or presumed, acute diarrhea
• By not administering the probiotic agent in people with proven, or presumed, acute diarrhea
The above mentioned studies were carried out in varied settings using various types and doses of probiotic bacteria.
Although the final impact varied with subjects, it was found that probiotics greatly reduced the severity and duration of diarrhea.
Regarding Probiotics the following approximates were deduced -
• Reduced the duration of diarrhea by approx. 25 hours
• Reduced the risk of diarrhea lasting for four days or more by 59%
• One fewer diarrheal stool on day 2 after probiotic treatment
There are lots of issues in this analytical study that need to be explained.
Probiotics are safe and appear to have beneficial effects, but they need to be used along side rehydration therapy.
Rehydration fluids do not reduce diarrhea episodes or reduce stool volume. Probiotics are able to do both these tasks.
The results from these studies are very encouraging indeed. However, more research needs to be carried out to analyze the type of probiotic regimens that is suitable for specific patient groups and also to assess the cost effectiveness of this treatment.