Introduction: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common infections affecting women, and often recur. Lactobacillus probiotics could potentially replace low dose, long term antibiotics as a safer prophylactic for recurrent UTI (rUTI). This systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to compile the results of existing randomized clinical trials (RCTs) to determine the efficacy of probiotic Lactobacillus species in preventing rUTI.
Materials and methods: MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched from inception to July 2012 for RCTs using a Lactobacillus prophylactic against rUTI in premenopausal adult women. A random-effects model meta-analysis was performed using a pooled risk ratio, comparing incidence of rUTI in patients receiving Lactobacillus to control.
Results: Data from 294 patients across five studies were included. There was no statistically significant difference in the risk for rUTI in patients receiving Lactobacillus versus controls, as indicated by the pooled risk ratio of 0.85 (95% confidence interval of 0.58-1.25, p = 0.41). A sensitivity analysis was performed, excluding studies using ineffective strains and studies testing for safety. Data from 127 patients in two studies were included. A statistically significant decrease in rUTI was found in patients given Lactobacillus, denoted by the pooled risk ratio of 0.51 (95% confidence interval 0.26-0.99, p = 0.05) with no statistical heterogeneity (I2 = 0%).
Conclusion: Probiotic strains of Lactobacillus are safe and effective in preventing rUTI in adult women. However, more RCTs are required before a definitive recommendation can be made since the patient population contributing data to this meta-analysis was small.