Lead author Dr. Lee E. Morrow of the Creighton University says ventilator-associated pneumonia affect an estimated 30 percent of patients who are hospitalized in critical condition.
Morrow and colleagues chose 138 critically ill patients from a single hospital to receive either placebo or probiotic therapy. Patients who received probiotic therapy got Lactobacillus rhamnosus twice daily.
The researchers find the daily use of probiotics not only decreased ventilator-associated pneumonia infections by about 50 percent compared to the placebo.
The study, plus a meta-analysis of existing studies, finds an overall reduction in ventilator-associated pneumonia of 39 percent with probiotics, suggesting a novel, inexpensive treatment, but more than 90 percent of patients in the intensive care unit were deemed ineligible for the study.
"Larger clinical trials with more liberal inclusion criteria are needed to establish the effectiveness of probiotics and to allow for extrapolation to a larger at-risk population," Morrow says in a statement.
The findings are published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.