North East study show healthy bacteria drugs do not prevent infection

Research carried out in the North East into the role of probiotic drugs in the elderly could save the NHS millions of pounds

The University Hospital of North Durham
The University Hospital of North Durham

Research conducted in the North East has shown ‘healthy bacteria’ drugs do not prevent a killer infection among the elderly in a study which could save the NHS millions.

The study, carried out at the University Hospital of North Durham and Darlington Memorial Hospital, looked at the role of probiotic drugs, which affect the digestive system of elderly patients and Clostridium difficile (C. diff)-associated diarrhoea.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust’s Research and Development Team investigated how healthy bacteria, known as probiotics, prevent infections.

Project workers screened more than 17,000 elderly inpatients between 2008 and 2012, and recruited around 2,900 patients to a randomised placebo study group.

Their research found that probiotics do not reduce the occurrence of C.diff infections in elderly patients and their use is unlikely to be cost-effective in preventing infections.

Dr Anjan Dhar, Senior Lecturer in Gastroenterology and Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Trust, said: “We are very proud of this study – it is the largest study so far in the world looking at the role of probiotics in the prevention of these infections in NHS hospitals and provides scientific evidence that there is no benefit in the use of microbial products in preventing this infection.

“It also demonstrates the strength of the team conducting clinical research at the trust.

“Our findings are likely to have a major impact in clinical practice and will save the NHS a lot of money in terms of non-effective treatments.”

There were 17,414 reported C.diff cases in England in 2011, and new strains of the bacteria have emerged, which tend to cause more severe infections.

The disease results in patients having longer hospital stays, significant morbidity and in some cases death.

The £1.2m Placide study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme, aimed to reduce the on-going increase in infections.

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