As growing levels of antibiotic resistance continues to concern health care professionals, the results of a recent study suggest that giving daily probiotic supplements to children can reduce their likelihood of requiring antibiotics.1
The study, published in the European Journal of Public Health, evaluated data on probiotic and antibiotic use from across 12 previous studies. Based on their analysis, the researchers determined that infants and children were 29% percent less likely to have been prescribed antibiotics if they received daily probiotic supplements, specifically, those containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium cultures. This percentage was increased to 53% when only the highest quality studies were factored.
“We already have evidence that consuming probiotics reduces the incidence, duration, and severity of certain types of common acute respiratory and gastrointestinal infections,” senior investigator, Daniel Merenstein, MD, in a statement. “The question is whether that reduction is solidly linked to declining use of antibiotics, and we see that there is an association.”
Although the exact mechanisms through which probiotics help infight infections remain unclear, some possibilities noted by the study authors include immune regulation and the production of pathogen inhibitors.
“We don't know all the mechanisms probiotic strains may leverage,” Dr. Merenstein stated. “But since most of the human immune system is found in the gastrointestinal tract, ingesting healthy bacteria may competitively exclude bacterial pathogens linked to gut infections and may prime the immune system to fight others.”
“More studies are needed in all ages, and particularly in the elderly, to see if sustained probiotic use is connected to an overall reduction in antibiotic prescriptions,” added lead author Sarah King, PhD. “If so, this could potentially have a huge impact on the use of probiotics in general medicine and consumers in general.”
There are approximately 2 million cases of antibiotic resistant infections and 23,000 deaths resulting from antibiotic resistance in the United States each year, according to the CDC.2
More information on the pharmacist’s role in antibiotic stewardship can be found here.
- Probiotic use may reduce antibiotic prescriptions, researchers say [news release]. Georgetown University Medical Center website. Published September 14, 2018. gumc.georgetown.edu/news/Probiotic-Use-May-Reduce-Antibiotic-Prescriptions. Accessed September 14, 2018.
- Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance (AR/AMR): Biggest Threats and Data. CDC website. Updated September 10, 2018. cdc.gov/drugresistance/biggest_threats.html. Accessed September 14, 2018.