Treatment of relapsing mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis with the probiotic VSL#3 as adjunctive to a standard pharmaceutical treatment: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study

Am J Gastroenterol. 2010 Oct;105(10):2218-27. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2010.218. Epub 2010 Jun 1.


Objectives: VSL#3 is a high-potency probiotic mixture that has been used successfully in the treatment of pouchitis. The primary end point of the study was to assess the effects of supplementation with VSL#3 in patients affected by relapsing ulcerative colitis (UC) who are already under treatment with 5-aminosalicylic acid (ASA) and/or immunosuppressants at stable doses.

Methods: A total of 144 consecutive patients were randomly treated for 8 weeks with VSL#3 at a dose of 3,600 billion CFU/day (71 patients) or with placebo (73 patients).

Results: In all, 65 patients in the VSL#3 group and 66 patients in the placebo group completed the study. The decrease in ulcerative colitis disease activity index (UCDAI) scores of 50% or more was higher in the VSL#3 group than in the placebo group (63.1 vs. 40.8; per protocol (PP) P=0.010, confidence interval (CI)₉₅(%) 0.51-0.74; intention to treat (ITT) P=0.031, CI₉₅(%) 0.47-0.69). Significant results with VSL#3 were recorded in an improvement of three points or more in the UCDAI score (60.5% vs. 41.4%; PP P=0.017, CI₉₅(%) 0.51-0.74; ITT P=0.046, CI₉₅(%) 0.47-0.69) and in rectal bleeding (PP P=0.014, CI₉₅(%) 0.46-0.70; ITT P=0.036, CI₉₅(%) 0.41-0.65), whereas stool frequency (PP P=0.202, CI₉₅(%) 0.39-0.63; ITT P=0.229, CI₉₅(%) 0.35-0.57), physician's rate of disease activity (PP P=0.088, CI₉₅(%) 0.34-0.58; ITT P=0.168, CI₉₅(%) 0.31-0.53), and endoscopic scores (PP P=0.086, CI₉₅(%) 0.74-0.92; ITT P=0.366, CI₉₅(%) 0.66-0.86) did not show statistical differences. Remission was higher in the VSL#3 group than in the placebo group (47.7% vs. 32.4%; PP P=0.069, CI₉₅(%) 0.36-0.60; ITT P=0.132, CI₉₅(%) 0.33-0.56). Eight patients on VSL#3 (11.2%) and nine patients on placebo (12.3%) reported mild side effects.

Conclusions: VSL#3 supplementation is safe and able to reduce UCDAI scores in patients affected by relapsing mild-to-moderate UC who are under treatment with 5-ASA and/or immunosuppressants. Moreover, VSL#3 improves rectal bleeding and seems to reinduce remission in relapsing UC patients after 8 weeks of treatment, although these parameters do not reach statistical significance.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Azathioprine / administration & dosage
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use*
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus
  • Male
  • Mesalamine / administration & dosage
  • Mesalamine / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Recurrence
  • Remission Induction
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Mesalamine
  • Azathioprine