Background: Whether probiotics are beneficial at all stages of treatment in inflammatory bowel disease or superior to placebo remains controversial.
Methods: Two reviewers independently selected randomized controlled trials comparing probiotics with controls in inflammatory bowel disease and extracted data related to remission/response rates, relapse rates, and adverse events. Subanalyses were also performed.
Results: Twenty-three randomized controlled trials with a total of 1763 participants met the inclusion criteria. From the meta-analysis, probiotics significantly increase the remission rates in patients with active ulcerative colitis (UC) (P = 0.01, risk ratio [RR] = 1.51). The remission rates were significantly higher in patients with active UC treated with probiotics than placebo (P < 0.0001, RR = 1.80). Unfortunately, subgroup analysis found that only VSL#3 significantly increased the remission rates compared with controls in patients with active UC (P = 0.004, RR = 1.74). Interestingly, VSL#3 (P < 0.00001, RR = 0.18) also significantly reduced the clinical relapse rates for maintaining remission in patients with pouchitis. No significantly different adverse events were detected between probiotics and controls in the treatment of UC (P = 0.94, RR = 0.99) or CD (P = 0.33, RR = 0.87).
Conclusions: Administration of probiotics results in additional benefit in inducing remission of patients with UC. VSL#3 are beneficial for maintaining remission in patients with pouchitis. And, probiotics can provide the similar effect as 5-aminosalicylic acid on maintaining remission of UC, although no additional adverse events presented.