Probiotics Shorten Diarrhoea Episodes
Researchers from Swansea University’s School of Medicine and Cochrane have found that Probiotic bacteria given as therapies for diarrhoea reduce the length of time sufferers are affected and lessen the chance of episodes continuing for more than four days.
Every year, diarrhoeal diseases kill nearly two million people in developing countries, mostly young children. The main treatment is rehydration fluids, but these do not tend to reduce the length of illness, a factor that is crucial in reducing the risk of persistent diarrhoea.
Probiotics, so-called “good bacteria”, may help in a variety of different ways including eliminating the bacteria, viruses or parasites responsible, for example, by competing for the same nutrients. A previous review showed benefits with probiotics in diarrhoeal disease, but the current report reviews data from a far larger evidence base.
The research group, led by Professor Steve Allen of Swansea University’s School of Medicine, reviewed data from 63 trials involving a total of 8,014 patients, over four times the number involved in the previous study. 56 trials focused on infants and young children. Giving probiotics in conjunction with rehydration fluids reduced the duration of diarrhoea by around a day and reduced the risk of diarrhoea lasting four or more days by 59%. No serious adverse effects were reported in the trials and although vomiting was quite common it also occurred with placebos.
“A striking finding of this review is that most trials reported that the use of probiotics had indeed reduced diarrhoea,” said Professor Allen. “The beneficial effect was consistent and significant across many different types of trials.”
“There were no adverse effects, so these therapies can now be used safely in addition to rehydration fluids. However, more research needs to be carried out on the specific strains of bacteria that are effective in treating diarrhoea and on preventing the progression from short-term to persistent diarrhoea,”
Professor Allen’s main research interests are in international child health. Based at the Medical School’s research institute, the Institute of Life Science, he has undertaken research in The Gambia and Papua New Guinea in malaria and malnutrition. He is the overseas director for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and conducts his clinical work in paediatric gastroenterology.