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Probiotics: maybe not as safe as you were told

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Jan 23, 2008 in Health
A nationwide study of the effect of probiotics in people with a severe acute infection of the pancreas in The Netherlands, has shown that people who receive the treatment have a higher chance of dying than people who don't receive the treatment.
Acute pancreatic infection is a rare and very serious disease. Two previously published, smaller foreign studies of the effect of probiotics in people with acute pancreatic infection had suggested that the effect was positive, but the studies were too small and failed to convince doctors that probiotics could really be useful. According to the Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht (UMC Utrecht), the current study was a lot larger and was mainly intended to show the infection reducing effect of probiotics.
296 patients with acute pancreatic infection took part in the study. They were divided in two groups: a study group and a control group. 24 patients (16 percent) in the study group died, versus 9 patients (6 percent) in the control group.
The researchers do not yet know what caused the higher death rate. There seem to be three important factors:
- administration of probiotics to people with failing organs
- administration of probiotics to intensive care patients, and
- administration of probiotics in combination that are drip-fed (directly into the intestine)
The researchers advise their colleagues not to administer probiotics to people who are in these situations.
The results only became clear after the study ended because it was a double-blind study, as required by rigorous medical standards. A special monitoring committee had checked the results halfway and had not observed any significant differences, not in infections, and not in death rate.
More about Probiotics, Acute pancreatic infection, Umc utrecht