According to a new study by British researchers probiotic yogurt drinks containing "good" bacteria help patients avoid the diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
The study by researchers at Imperial College and London's Hammersmith Hospital, found that drinks with the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus help reduce diarrhea associated with the hospital superbug Clostridium difficile and antibiotics in hospitalised patients.
Dietitian Mary Hickson of Imperial College and London's Hammersmith Hospital and colleagues used Actimel, made by French food group Danone, which contains three beneficial bacteria -- Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
For the study, 135 patients age 50 or older were enlisted from three London hospitals and were randomly assigned into two groups receiving either Actimel or a sterile milk-shake with no probiotics.
The patients were given the drinks twice daily while they were being treated with antibiotics and continued the probiotic treatment for one week after the antibiotic therapy was completed.
It was found that only 12 percent of patients who used the probiotic drinks developed antibiotic associated diarrhea, compared to 34 percent in the control group.
Also no one in the study group experienced C. difficile-associated diarrhea, compared to 17 percent in the control group.
The hospital trust and Danone shared the costs of the study by providing the drink which cost $120 per patient, compared to a cost of $8,000 for treating a case of diarrhea in the hospital.
The researchers say there were no adverse events and the drink was well accepted and substantial savings could be made by the routine use of probiotic drinks.
However they say it remains unclear exactly how the drink worked.
Experts say one in every 250 hospital deaths involves C. difficile as a contributory or main factor and the bacteria is often resistant to antibiotic treatment and can make patients seriously ill.
Between 5 percent and 25 percent of patients treated with antibiotics develop diarrhea, in part because the drugs kill some of the bacteria normally resident in the intestines.