Probiotics reduce the risk of Clostridium difficile –associated diarrhea in patients receiving antibiotics


Background: Antibiotic use is associated with an increased risk of C. difficile infection. Multiple studies have investigated the effects of probiotics in reducing the risk of C. difficile infection with varied results. This meta-analysis aims to assess the efficacy and safety of probiotics in reducing the risk of CDAD in patients taking antibiotics.

Study design: Meta-analysis.

Setting: A comprehensive electronic search for randomized, controlled trials investigating probiotics for prevention of CDAD or C. difficile infection were considered for inclusion. There were no language, publication status, or date limits applied.

Synopsis: This meta-analysis included 31 trials (8,672 participants) evaluating the relationship between probiotics and CDAD. The outcomes were pooled using a random effects model to calculate risk ratios and 95% confidence intervals. A complete case analysis suggested that probiotics reduce the risk of CDAD by 60% (1.5% vs. 4.0%; relative risk, 0.40; 95% confidence interval, 0.3-0.52), although a post-hoc subgroup analysis showed a statistically significant benefit only among patients with a high CDAD baseline risk (greater than 5%). Adverse events were assessed in 32 trials (8,305 participants), and the pooled analysis indicated that probiotic use reduced the risk of adverse events by 17% (RR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.71-0.97).

Limitations to this meta-analysis include missing data from patients lost to follow-up and lack of success in testing all fecal samples. Lastly, that the strongest data for the beneficial effects of probiotics were demonstrated in patients with a high baseline risk of developing CDAD limits the study’s applicability to the general population.

Bottom line: Probiotic use in immunocompetent patients undergoing treatment with antibiotics decreases the incidence of CDAD without an increase in adverse events.

Citation: Goldenberg JZ et al. Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile–associated diarrhea in adults and children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006095.pub4.

Dr. Alisha Skinner, a hospitalist at Denver Health Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado

Dr. Alisha Skinner

Dr. Skinner is a hospitalist at Denver Health Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora.

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