The use of probiotics in diarrheal diseases of children is increasing. Probiotics, mostly lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, but also the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, have been tried in many double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled studies, and several well-conducted meta-analyses are now available. There is some evidence of efficacy in the prevention of community-acquired and nosocomial diarrhea. More solid evidence of efficacy is found in the treatment of sporadic, infectious diarrhea, where several probiotics, and especially Lactobacillus GG, have been found capable of reducing by approximately 1 day the duration of diarrhea, shorten the initial phase of watery stools, and reducing hospital stay in developed countries. The effect is best documented in viral diarrheas. Although there are valid conceptual premises for probiotics to be helpful in inflammatory bowel diseases, only 1 trial has been published in children, showing Lactobacillus GG not to be superior to placebo in maintaining remission of Crohn disease. All considered, more research is needed for a better understanding of the role of probiotics in gastrointestinal diseases of children, addressing issues such as pharmacokinetics, mechanism of action, and role of specific probiotics, alone or in combination, in different disorders.
University of Chicago, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Chicago, IL
Reprints: Stefano Guandalini, MD, University of Chicago, Comer Children's Hospital, 5841 S. Maryland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Received for publication September 7, 2005; accepted November 16, 2005