Objective: To compare the efficacy of five probiotic preparations recommended to parents in the treatment of acute diarrhoea in children. Design Randomised controlled clinical trial in collaboration with family paediatricians over 12 months.
Setting: Primary care.
Participants: Children aged 3-36 months visiting a family paediatrician for acute diarrhoea.
Intervention: Children's parents were randomly assigned to receive written instructions to purchase a specific probiotic product: oral rehydration solution (control group); Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG; Saccharomyces boulardii; Bacillus clausii; mix of L delbrueckii var bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, L acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium bifidum; or Enterococcus faecium SF68.
Main outcome measures: Primary outcomes were duration of diarrhoea and daily number and consistency of stools. Secondary outcomes were duration of vomiting and fever and rate of admission to hospital. Safety and tolerance were also recorded.
Results: 571 children were allocated to intervention. Median duration of diarrhoea was significantly shorter (P<0.001) in children who received L rhamnosus strain GG (78.5 hours) and the mix of four bacterial strains (70.0 hours) than in children who received oral rehydration solution alone (115.0 hours). One day after the first probiotic administration, the daily number of stools was significantly lower (P<0.001) in children who received L rhamnosus strain GG and in those who received the probiotic mix than in the other groups. The remaining preparations did not affect primary outcomes. Secondary outcomes were similar in all groups.
Conclusions: Not all commercially available probiotic preparations are effective in children with acute diarrhoea. Paediatricians should choose bacterial preparations based on effectiveness data.
Trial registration number: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN56067537 [controlled-trials.com].