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Probiotics in gastroenterology: indications and future perspectives.

Author information

1
Dept. of Gastroenterology, University Hospital Maastricht. The Netherlands. Dominique.Goossens@intmed.unimaas.nl

Abstract

Nowadays. there is a growing interest in probiotics as a safe way of changing the intestinal bacterial flora. Probiotics may have potential in several gastroenterological conditions, especially when the intestinal flora has been disturbed. Most scientific evidence is available for diarrhoea patients treated with Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus reuteri or Saccharomyces boulardii. Meta-analyses have shown an overall reduction in the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea during treatment with probiotics, and benefits have also been demonstrated for patients with rota-virus-associated diarrhoea. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, an inflammatory disorder characterized by a change in the intestinal flora, are another important target group for which probiotics may be beneficial. It has been claimed that in ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease patients, lactobacilli, S. boulardii and Escherichia coli reduce relapses. but most studies were not placebo-controlled. A reduction in relapses has also been demonstrated in pouchitis patients treated with a multispecies probiotic. Irritable bowel syndrome might be another clinical indication for probiotic therapy, but results of clinical trials performed in these patients are inconsistent. Additionally, probiotics may improve lactose absorption. Helicobacter pylori eradication and constipation. Finally, in animal models of colorectal cancer, treatment with probiotics reduces the prevalence of this disease, and in humans the amount of genotoxic substances in faeces has been reduced. In conclusion, the results of studies on the effects of probiotics in gastrointestinal conditions are encouraging. but well-designed placebo-controlled studies are warranted before recommendations for therapeutic or preventive use can be given. Many issues still have to be resolved, including optimal dose and duration of treatment, selection of and differences between the several available probiotic strains, and, importantly, their mechanisms of actions have to be elucidated.

PMID:
14743878
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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