Probiotics are live microorganisms that are believed to help restore the balance of intestinal bacteria and increase resistance to harmful germs. In a breakthrough discovery, researchers have revealed that probiotics may not protect critically ill people from superbugs or drug-resistant microbes.
Lead author of the study Jennie Kwon, clinical researcher at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said, "Probiotic use is an intriguing topic. With fewer therapies available to treat multidrug-resistant organisms, innovative methods to prevent or eliminate gastrointestinal colonization are necessary."
The research team found that compared with routine medical care, probiotics administered to critically ill patients in intensive care units showed no benefit in preventing the colonization of drug-resistant microbes in the intestinal tract. For the study, researchers followed 70 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. They studied whether the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG could prevent the intestinal colonization of superbugs.
Study subjects 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- a first step to developing a full-blown infection. The data suggested that the drug-resistant microbes colonized 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.
Kwon said, "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."
The study findings were reported in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.