May 24, 2016
Probiotics could be the answer to preventing C. Difficile in hospitals
Antibiotics are a crucial weapon in the fight against a wide variety of diseases. However, the common use of antibiotics has been shown to greatly increase the risk of Clostridium difficile infection (C. diff), a serious and potentially deadly disease that is a major cause of illness and death among hospitalized patients. When antibiotics are taken to fight an infection, they wipe out the natural gut flora in the digestive tract, leaving room for an infection like C. diff to overgrow in the colon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that C. diff nearly doubled between 2001 and 2010, so finding a way to prevent it — without stopping the appropriate use of antibiotics — is a significant challenge that we face in hospitals every day. Researchers believe for every 50 patients who develop C. diff while in the hospital, adding a probiotic would eliminate one case — a measure referred to as "number needed to treat." This is a relatively low number, considering that taking a probiotic is simple and relatively inexpensive, especially compared to the intensive treatment of C. diff. Additionally, the use of probiotics carries a low risk of side effects — and the result is potentially life-saving.