A complex infection  pg. 4

Probiotics compete with the “bad” bacteria to colonize the gut.  Lactobacillus reuteri also produces a substance, “reuterin,” which can kill pathogens directly.

“If we are able to avoid predominance of Gram-negative pathogens in the GI tract by administering Lactobacillus reuteri early on, we can decrease the risk of … damage to the mucosa and bowel wall,” Rojas says. “We’re trying to prove that in our trial. In developing countries there is a predominance of Gram-negative sepsis; we suspect probiotics can also decrease these infections.”

Rojas hopes to enroll 1,100 babies in this multi-center randomized controlled trial in which babies are randomly assigned to groups receiving probiotic or an inactive “placebo.”

“We’ve been very careful designing this study in order to have the power to demonstrate a difference between placebo and probiotic,” he said. “Probiotics are a low-cost, high-impact intervention that can be used at a global level.

“If we can demonstrate Lactobacillus reuteri administration to preterm infants is safe and efficacious, then we have an excellent opportunity to decrease global infant mortality.”

Current research is also investigating the use of these helpful bacteria in acute and chronic diarrhea of infants and children, and in inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer in adults. 

“We need to overcome the barriers to doing research with probiotics in the United States,” Rojas says. “We should have done these studies a long time ago. The cost of doing research in the U.S. has become a tremendous barrier for low-cost interventions like probiotics.” 

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