Timely Use of Probiotics in Hospitalized Adults Prevents Clostridium difficile Infection: A Systematic Review With Meta-Regression Analysis

Gastroenterology. 2017 Jun;152(8):1889-1900.e9. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.02.003. Epub 2017 Feb 10.


Background & aims: Systematic reviews have provided evidence for the efficacy of probiotics in preventing Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), but guidelines do not recommend probiotic use for prevention of CDI. We performed an updated systematic review to help guide clinical practice.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, International Journal of Probiotics and Prebiotics, and The Cochrane Library databases for randomized controlled trials evaluating use of probiotics and CDI in hospitalized adults taking antibiotics. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias and overall quality of the evidence. Primary and secondary outcomes were incidence of CDI and adverse events, respectively. Secondary analyses examined the effects of probiotic species, dose, timing, formulation, duration, and study quality.

Results: We analyzed data from 19 published studies, comprising 6261 subjects. The incidence of CDI in the probiotic cohort, 1.6% (54 of 3277), was lower than of controls, 3.9% (115 of 2984) (P < .001). The pooled relative risk of CDI in probiotic users was 0.42 (95% confidence interval, 0.30-0.57; I2 = 0.0%). Meta-regression analysis demonstrated that probiotics were significantly more effective if given closer to the first antibiotic dose, with a decrement in efficacy for every day of delay in starting probiotics (P = .04); probiotics given within 2 days of antibiotic initiation produced a greater reduction of risk for CDI (relative risk, 0.32; 95% confidence interval, 0.22-0.48; I2 = 0%) than later administration (relative risk, 0.70; 95% confidence interval, 0.40-1.23; I2 = 0%) (P = .02). There was no increased risk for adverse events among patients given probiotics. The overall quality of the evidence was high.

Conclusions: In a systematic review with meta-regression analysis, we found evidence that administration of probiotics closer to the first dose of antibiotic reduces the risk of CDI by >50% in hospitalized adults. Future research should focus on optimal probiotic dose, species, and formulation. Systematic Review Registration: PROSPERO CRD42015016395.

Keywords: Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea; Lactobacillus; Meta-analysis; Nosocomial Infection.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Clostridioides difficile / pathogenicity*
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / physiopathology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / epidemiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / microbiology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / physiopathology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / prevention & control*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Odds Ratio
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents