HEALTH

Study: Probiotics may be able to reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea incidence

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — Consumption of probiotics is associated with a reduced risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, a common adverse effect of antibiotic use, according to a review and meta-analysis of previous studies published in the May 9 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The use of antibiotics that disturb the gastrointestinal flora [microbes] is associated with clinical symptoms, such as diarrhea, which occurs in as many as 30% of patients," wrote Susanne Hempel of RAND Health. "Symptoms range from mild and self-limiting to severe, particularly in Clostridium difficile infections, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea is an important reason for nonadherence with antibiotic treatment."

Potentially, probiotics maintain or restore gut microecology (microbial ecology) during or after antibiotic treatment. "There is an increasing interest in probiotic interventions, and evidence for the effectiveness of probiotics in preventing or treating AAD is also increasing," Hempel said.

Across a patient population of almost 12,000 included in the meta-analysis, probiotic use was associated with a 42% lower risk of developing diarrhea compared with a control group not using probiotics. The result was consistent across a number of subgroup and sensitivity analyses.

The researchers note that there exists significant heterogeneity (differences across studies) in pooled results, and the evidence is insufficient to determine whether this association varies systematically by population, antibiotic characteristic or probiotic preparation.

"In summary, our review found sufficient evidence to conclude that adjunct probiotic administration is associated with a reduced risk of AAD. This generalized conclusion likely obscures heterogeneity in effectiveness among the patients, the antibiotics and the probiotic strains or blends," Hempel wrote. "Future studies should assess these factors and explicitly assess the possibility of adverse events to better refine our understanding of the use of probiotics to prevent AAD."

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Research: Canadian researchers discover pathway to developing universal flu vaccines

BY Michael Johnsen

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — University of British Columbia researchers may have found a way to develop universal flu vaccines and eliminate the need for seasonal flu vaccinations, university officials announced Tuesday.

Led by John Schrader, Canada Research chair in Immunology and director of UBC’s Biomedical Research Centre, the research team found that the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" vaccine triggers antibodies that protect against many influenza viruses, including the lethal avian H5N1 "bird flu" strain. "The flu virus has a protein called hemagglutinin, or HA for short. This protein is like a flower with a head and a stem," Schrader noted. "The flu virus binds to human cells via the head of the HA, much like a socket and plug," he added. "Current flu vaccines target the head of the HA to prevent infections, but because the flu virus mutates very quickly, this part of the HA changes rapidly, hence the need for different vaccines every flu season."

Vaccines contain bits of weak or dead germs that prompt the human immune system to produce antibodies that circulate in the blood to kill those specific germs. However, the research team found that the 2009 pandemic H1N1 vaccine induced broadly protective antibodies capable of fighting different variants of the flu virus.

"This is because, rather than attacking the variable head of the HA, the antibodies attacked the stem of the HA, neutralizing the flu virus," Schrader stated. "The stem plays such an integral role in penetrating the cell that it cannot change between different variants of the flu virus."

The new discovery could pave the way to developing universal flu vaccines, Schrader suggested.

Schrader theorizes that a vaccine based on a mixture of influenza viruses not circulating in humans but in animals should have the same effect and potentially make influenza pandemics and seasonal influenza a thing of the past.

Details have been published May 8 in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.


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Bainbridge & Knight target fitness conscious with new weight management product

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Bainbridge & Knight on Tuesday announced the  GNC-exclusive launch of Lichi Elite Series, a weight management brand formulated for use by experienced body builders and competitive athletes.

“Backed by cutting-edge research, this is our most efficacious and advanced weight management product in the market," stated Mark Horowitz, VP sales and marketing at Bainbridge & Knight. "Our diet brand has been very well-received over the past year. With this powerful new formula and our brand equity, we are confident about successfully launching a new line extension of weight management products targeting the fitness enthusiasts."

The primary ingredients are the antioxidant-rich lychee berry, green tea extracts and SuperCitriMax Garcina fruit extract. 

The new diet aid is available exclusively at the specialty retailer GNC through Dec. 31 and retails at a suggested price of $39.99.


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