An Oral Formulation of the Probiotic, Bacillus subtilis HU58, Was Safe and Well Tolerated in a Pilot Study of Patients with Hepatic Encephalopathy

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020 Jun 30;2020:1463108. doi: 10.1155/2020/1463108. eCollection 2020.


Background: Hepatic encephalopathy often results in high blood ammonia levels because of inefficient ammonia processing by the liver. Lactulose treatment promotes the growth of urease-producing gut bacteria and a reduced colon pH, thus reducing blood ammonia absorption. It is thought that probiotics as an add-on therapy may be beneficial. Patients and Methods. Bacillus subtilis HU58 was tested for safety and tolerability in patients with hepatic encephalopathy taking lactulose in this double-bind, placebo-controlled, 4-week pilot study. Study participants received one dose of B. subtilis HU58 or placebo (orally) for the first five days and two daily doses thereafter. Participants were monitored for safety and blood ammonia levels.

Results: Forty patients participated (placebo, 11; probiotic, 29). Baseline characteristics were generally comparable; the mean baseline blood ammonia level was somewhat higher in the probiotic group. Mild or moderate treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) were reported in 27.3% and 17.2% of patients in the placebo and probiotic groups, respectively; no severe TEAEs were reported. One patient (9.1%) taking placebo and two (6.9%) taking the probiotic experienced serious TEAEs (SAEs); none resulted in study discontinuation and all were considered to have no/unlikely relationship to the study product. There were no significant differences in the mean percent change (MPC) of blood ammonia levels between groups, though the probiotic group exhibited a trend toward a milder increase. Stratification of the probiotic group by baseline blood ammonia level (>60 μg/dL and ≤60 μg/dL) resulted in a significantly reduced MPC in the >60 μg/dL subgroup (MPC (SD); ≤60 μg/dL (n = 14), 35.3% (73.3); >60 μg/dL (n = 14), -26.5% (24.4); p = 0.0087).

Conclusions: Daily treatment with oral B. subtilis HU58 was safe and well tolerated over a 4-week period in patients with hepatic encephalopathy, and a significantly reduced MPC of blood ammonia level was observed in patients with a baseline level >60 µg/dL.