The role of probiotics in the prevention and treatment of childhood infectious diarrhea
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that colonize and replicate in the human intestinal tract providing a positive benefit to the host. Several clinical trials support the efficacy of certain probiotics in the prevention and treatment of various diarrheal illnesses. This paper reviews published clinical trials assessing the efficacy of various probiotic species and strains in preventing and treating acute diarrhea in children. The available evidence shows that few probiotic species (mostly Lactobacillus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii) are efficacious in decreasing the duration and the severity of acute gastroenteritis, with the most prominent of the reported benefits, the reduction of the duration of diarrhea by approximately 1 day. With regard to the prevention of acute diarrhea in the community and the hospital, there is modest evidence that some probiotic species may be efficacious in preventing community acquired diarrhea (Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus GG), nosocomial acquired diarrhea (Lactobacillus GG) and Clostridium difficile diarrhea (Lactobacillus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii). In conclusion, the available evidence suggests that probiotics are safe when used in healthy children and effective in reducing the duration of acute infectious diarrhea. Further studies are required to assess the efficacy of selected probiotic species and strains at different dosages for different clinical indications and patient groups.