Background: Previous meta-analyses reported that probiotics improve the effectiveness of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) eradication during antibiotic therapy, while results regarding a possible reduction of side effects remained inconclusive. Moreover, the effectiveness of different strains of probiotics has not been studied so far. It is further conceivable that probiotics will produce additional effects only if antibiotics are relatively ineffective.
Methods: This meta-analysis includes eligible randomized controlled trials examining effects of probiotics supplementation on eradication rates (ER) and side effects, published up to May 2014. Sub-group analysis was performed to compare different probiotic strains and antibiotic therapies with different effectiveness in controls (ER <80% vs.>80%). Publication bias was assessed with funnel plots and Harbord's test. The quality of the trials was assessed with the Cochrane risk of bias tool.
Results: Thirty-three RCTs involving a total of 4459 patients met the inclusion criteria in case of eradication rates of which 20 assessed total side effects in addition. Overall, the pooled eradication rate in probiotics supplementation groups was significantly higher than in controls (ITT analysis: RR 1.122, 95% CI 1.086-1.159, PP analysis: RR 1.114, 95% CI 1.070-1.159). Sub group-analysis could, however, confirm this finding only for four individual strains (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei DN-114001, Lactobacillus gasseri, and Bifidobacterium infantis 2036) and for relatively ineffective antibiotic therapies. There was a significant difference between groups in the overall incidence of side effects (RR 0.735, 95% CI 0.598-0.902). This result was, however, only confirmed for non-blinded trials.
Conclusions: The pooled data suggest that supplementation with specific strains of probiotics compared with eradication therapy may be considered an option for increasing eradication rates, particularly when antibiotic therapies are relatively ineffective. The impact on side effects remains unclear and more high quality trials on specific probiotic strains and side effects are thus needed.