A 68-year-old woman is admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of community-acquired pneumonia. Should you add probiotics to her antibiotic regimen to prevent infection with Clostridium difficile?
Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) leads to significant morbidity, mortality, and treatment failures. In 2011, it culminated in a cost of $4.8 billion and 29,000 deaths.2,3 Risk factors for infection include antibiotic use, hospitalization, older age, and medical comorbidities.2 Probiotics have been proposed as one way to prevent CDI.
While several systematic reviews have demonstrated efficacy for probiotics in the prevention of CDI,4-6 guidelines from the American College of Gastroenterology and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America did not incorporate a recommendation for the use of probiotics in their CDI prevention strategy.7,8
The PLACIDE trial studied the use of probiotics in inpatients ages ≥ 65 years receiving either oral or parenteral antibiotics and found no difference in the incidence of CDI in those who received probiotics vs those who did not.9 Even though the PLACIDE trial was the largest, high-quality, randomized controlled trial (RCT) on the use of probiotics to prevent CDI, it had a lower incidence of CDI than was assumed in the power calculations. Additionally, previous systematic reviews did not always follow the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, and did not focus specifically on hospitalized patients, who are at higher risk for CDI.
Given the conflicting and poor evidence and recommendations, an additional systematic review and meta-analysis was performed following PRISMA guidelines and focusing on studies conducted only on hospitalized adults.
Probiotics prevent CDI in hospitalized patients receiving antibiotics
This meta-analysis of 19 RCTs evaluated the efficacy of probiotics for the prevention of CDI in 6261 adult hospitalized patients taking antibiotics. All patients were ≥ 18 years (mean age 68-69 years) and received antibiotics orally, intravenously, or via both routes for any medical indication.
Trials were included if the intervention was for CDI prevention and if the probiotics used were 1 or a combination of 4 strains (Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus). Probiotic doses ranged from 4 billion to 900 billion colony-forming u/day and were started from 1 to 7 days after first antibiotic dose. Duration of probiotic use was either fixed at between 14 and 21 days or varied based on the duration of antibiotics (extending 3-14 days after the last antibiotic dose).
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