Orally Ingested Probiotic, Prebiotic, and Synbiotic Interventions as Countermeasures for Gastrointestinal Tract Infections in Nonelderly Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Heather S. Fagnant, Sandra D. Isidean, Lydia Wilson, Asma S. Bukhari, Jillian T. Allen, Richard T. Agans, Dustin M. Lee, Adrienne Hatch-McChesney, Claire C. Whitney, Elaine Sullo, Chad K. Porter, J. Philip Karl*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Meta-analyses have not examined the prophylactic use of orally ingested probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics for preventing gastrointestinal tract infections (GTIs) of various etiologies in adult populations, despite evidence that these gut microbiota-targeted interventions can be effective in treating certain GTIs. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to estimate the effects of prophylactic use of orally ingested probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics on GTI incidence, duration, and severity in nonelderly, nonhospitalized adults. CENTRAL, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science were searched through January 2022. English-language, peer-reviewed publications of randomized, placebo-controlled studies testing an orally ingested probiotic, prebiotic, or synbiotic intervention of any dose for ≥1 wk in adults who were not hospitalized, immunosuppressed, or taking antibiotics were included. Results were analyzed using random-effects meta-analyses of intention-to-treat (ITT) and complete case (CC) cohorts. Heterogeneity was explored by subgroup meta-analysis and meta-regression. The risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk-of-bias 2 tool. Seventeen publications reporting 20 studies of probiotics (n = 16), prebiotics (n = 3), and synbiotics (n = 1) were identified (n > 6994 subjects). In CC and ITT analyses, risk of experiencing ≥1 GTI was reduced with probiotics (CC analysis—risk ratio: 0.86; 95% CI: 0.73, 1.01) and prebiotics (risk ratio: 0.80; 95% CI: 0.66, 0.98). No effects on GTI duration or severity were observed. Sources of heterogeneity included the study population and number of probiotic strains administered but were often unexplained, and a high risk of bias was observed for most studies. The specific effects of individual probiotic strains and prebiotic types could not be assessed owing to a lack of confirmatory studies. Findings indicated that both orally ingested probiotics and prebiotics, relative to placebo, demonstrated modest benefit for reducing GTI risk in nonelderly adults. However, results should be interpreted cautiously owing to the low number of studies, high risk of bias, and unexplained heterogeneity that may include probiotic strain-specific or prebiotic-specific effects. This review was registered at PROSPERO as CRD42020200670.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • dietary supplement
  • fermentable fiber
  • gastrointestinal illness
  • gut microbiome
  • infectious diarrhea
  • travelers’ diarrhea

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