Hospitals Try Yogurt To Prevent Infections In Patients

Laura Landro | Wall Street Journal | November 17, 2013

For people on antibiotics, probiotics can stymie a common, virulent bug

At Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pa., a worrisome trend emerged in 2011: an uptick in cases of one of the most virulent hospital infections, despite measures to battle the bug by scrubbing surfaces with bleach and isolating affected patients.

But the hospital was able to drive down cases last year after adding a new weapon to its arsenal: probiotics, the small organisms that help maintain the natural balance of bacteria in the intestines.

Contained in supplements and foods such as yogurt, probiotics are of growing interest in health care for their potential in helping to treat a number of conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, tooth decay and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Now, Holy Redeemer and other hospitals are experimenting with probiotics as a preventive measure for patients who are on antibiotics. For all their infection-fighting power, antibiotics kill the good bugs along with the bad in the intestine. The result is an imbalance in the gut that can lead a bacterium known as Clostridium difficile—C. diff for short—to colonize and produce a toxin that can cause diarrhea, dehydration and fever. In severe cases, C. diff infections can lead to kidney failure, recurrent infection and death.