December 22, 2008

Probiotics help patients on antibiotics

U.S. researchers say physicians could help their patients on antibiotic therapy by prescribing probiotics.

These cultures of good microorganisms -- similar to those normally found in the gut -- may help restore the microbial balance disrupted by antibiotics and infections.

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University say their review, published in American Family Physician, found seven high-quality studies supporting the use of probiotics to help avoid diarrhea caused by antibiotics and infections. The probiotics did not cause adverse effects -- even in children -- and did not diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics.

With the level of evidence that probiotics work and the large safety margins for them, we see no good reason not to prescribe probiotics when prescribing antibiotics, study co-author Dr. Benjamin Kligler says in a statement. The only drawback is that probiotics are not covered by health insurance.

Kligler notes a one-month supply of probiotics costs under $22. Doses are short-lived, so probiotics need to be taken throughout a course of antibiotic therapy. Doses of more than 5 billion colony-forming units per day for children and more than 10 billion colony-forming units per day for adults were associated with the best outcomes, the study said.

Kligler says physicians should be aware of specific brands so they can recommend only those known to be of quality. He suggests visiting and to find complete listings of beneficial probiotic preparations.