Rationale, design, and methods: A randomized placebo-controlled trial of an immunomodulatory probiotic intervention for Veterans with PTSD

Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2022 Jun 28:28:100960. doi: 10.1016/j.conctc.2022.100960. eCollection 2022 Aug.


Background: United States military Veterans from recent conflicts are experiencing symptoms related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many Veterans are resistant to conventional health and mental health interventions (e.g., medication, psychotherapy). Alternative treatment approaches are needed. An underlying feature of PTSD is exaggerated inflammation, both peripherally and in the central nervous system. This inflammation is thought to play an important role in the vulnerability to, aggravation of, and persistence of PTSD symptoms. Therefore, an innovative intervention strategy would be the use of immunoregulatory/anti-inflammatory probiotics to reduce inflammation. Here we describe the rationale, design, and methods of a randomized placebo-controlled trial (RCT) of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG; ATCC 53103) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Methods: This is a Phase IIa trial of LGG for United States military Veterans with PTSD, using a longitudinal, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled design. The primary outcome measure is plasma concentration of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Conclusion: Despite the fact that symptoms associated with PTSD can be disabling, individuals living with this trauma-related disorder have limited options in terms of evidence-based interventions. Recent research efforts aimed at highlighting the biological mechanisms of PTSD suggest that increased inflammation and altered autonomic nervous system activity may be treatment targets, and that immunoregulatory probiotics, such as LGG, have the potential to decrease trauma-induced inflammatory responses, as well as associated symptoms. This manuscript describes the best powered human subjects Phase IIa trial, to date, of a probiotic intervention for those living with PTSD.

Keywords: Immunomodulation; Inflammation; PTSD; Probiotics; Randomized controlled trial; Veterans.