Use of probiotics for prevention of radiation-induced diarrhea

World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Feb 14;13(6):912-5. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v13.i6.912.


Aim: To investigate the efficacy of a high-potency probiotic preparation on prevention of radiation-induced diarrhea in cancer patients.

Methods: This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Four hundred and ninety patients who underwent adjuvant postoperative radiation therapy after surgery for sigmoid, rectal, or cervical cancer were assigned to either the high-potency probiotic preparation VSL#3 (one sachet t.i.d.,) or placebo starting from the first day of radiation therapy. Efficacy endpoints were incidence and severity of radiation-induced diarrhea, daily number of bowel movements, and the time from the start of the study to the use of loperamide as rescue medication.

Results: More placebo patients had radiation-induced diarrhea than VSL#3 patients (124 of 239 patients, 51.8%, and 77 of 243 patients, 31.6%; P<0.001) and more patients given placebo suffered grade 3 or 4 diarrhea compared with VSL#3 recipients (55.4% and 1.4%, P<0.001). Daily bowel movements were 14.7 +/- 6 and 5.1 +/- 3 among placebo and VSL#3 recipients (P<0.05), and the mean time to the use of loperamide was 86 +/- 6 h for placebo patients and 122 +/- 8 h for VSL#3 patients (P<0.001).

Conclusion: Probiotic lactic acid-producing bacteria are an easy, safe, and feasible approach to protect cancer patients against the risk of radiation-induced diarrhea.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Antidiarrheals / therapeutic use
  • Colonic Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy
  • Diarrhea / etiology*
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus
  • Loperamide / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Probiotics / adverse effects
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Radiation Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / radiotherapy


  • Antidiarrheals
  • Loperamide