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A US based non-profit institution has just published, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), their evidence1 for the positive effects of the consumption of probiotics (see Probiotics Learning Lab) against the risk of diarrhoea whilst on antibiotic treatment. As some of us will know, when taking antibiotics it can be common to experience antibiotic associated side-effects (see Probiotics Learning Lab for more glossary terms). The reason for this is explained by the researchers, led by Susanne Hempel, “the use of Antibiotics that disturb the gastrointestinal flora (microbes) is associated with clinical symptoms such as diarrhoea, which occurs in as many as 30 percent of patients.

The research team has discovered that probiotic intervention may alleviate these symptoms, “There is an increasing interest in probiotic interventions and evidence for the effectiveness of probiotics in preventing or treating Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD) is also increasing…. In summary, our review found sufficient evidence to conclude that adjunct probiotic administration is associated with a reduced risk of AAD,” concluded Hempel and her colleagues.

Through gathering evidence from around 63 different clinical trials, using data from over 11,000 participants, the team discovered that 42 percent of the participants had a lower risk of developing antibiotic associated diarrhoea2. The co-author Sydne Newberry said, “we found a clear beneficial effect of probiotics in preventing or treating AAD,” however they still believe that more work must be done to determine which types of probiotics work best and which patients are more likely to benefit from a probiotic course.

In the reviewed data from the 11,811 participants in the 63 different groups, Hempel and her team used randomised controlled trials to asses the AAD and the probiotic intervention. The probiotics used by the team in their study wereLactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Strepococcus, Enterococcus and/or Bacillus, depending the on the trial group. The majority of the randomised controlled trials used Lactobacillus alone or in combination with the other strains of probiotics, however the author admits that their documentation of the strains was poor.

In conclusion the team stated that any future study on the effects of probiotics in any medical or clinical trial, should try to determine what strains work best in our gut to produce the desired effects for our bodies and try to understand what combinations of probiotics work better than others, are best at their jobs or whether they work better with specific antibiotics.

Probiotics have been found beneficial in the past for antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, but what’s of particular interest here is the fact that this was such a large, widely circulated study, published in a well-respected journal.


1. Hempel S, Newberry SJ, Maher AR, et al. Probiotics for the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrheaa systematic review and meta-analysis probiotics for antibiotic-associated diarrhea. JAMA.207(18): 1959

2. Salynn Boyles, Web MD, 2012. Users Had 42% Lower Risk of Diarrhea while taking Antibiotics.

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