Randomised clinical trial: the effects of a multispecies probiotic vs. placebo on innate immune function, bacterial translocation and gut permeability in patients with cirrhosis

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Nov;44(9):926-935. doi: 10.1111/apt.13788. Epub 2016 Sep 4.


Background: Probiotics may correct intestinal dysbiosis and proinflammatory conditions in patients with liver cirrhosis.

Aim: To test the effects of a multispecies probiotic on innate immune function, bacterial translocation and gut permeability.

Methods: In a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled study, stable cirrhotic out-patients either received a daily dose of a probiotic powder containing eight different bacterial strains (Ecologic Barrier, Winclove, Amsterdam, The Netherlands) (n = 44) or a placebo (n = 36) for 6 months and were followed up for another 6 months.

Results: We found a significant but subclinical increase in neutrophil resting burst (2.6-3.2%, P = 0.0134) and neopterin levels (7.7-8.4 nmol/L, P = 0.001) with probiotics but not with placebo. Probiotic supplementation did not have a significant influence on neutrophil phagocytosis, endotoxin load, gut permeability or inflammatory markers. Ten severe infections occurred in total; one during intervention in the placebo group, and five and four after the intervention has ended in the probiotic and placebo group, respectively. Liver function showed some improvement with probiotics but not with placebo.

Conclusions: Probiotic supplementation significantly increased serum neopterin levels and the production of reactive oxygen species by neutrophils. These findings might explain the beneficial effects of probiotics on immune function. Furthermore, probiotic supplementation may be a well-tolerated method to maintain or even improve liver function in stable cirrhosis. However, its influence on gut barrier function and bacterial translocation in cirrhotic patients is minimal.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacterial Translocation / drug effects
  • Bacterial Translocation / physiology*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / drug therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / immunology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / microbiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Permeability / drug effects
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome