Probiotics could prevent fatal sepsis, other infections: 7 study findings

Burn patients and those undergoing treatment for other types of trauma may benefit from including probiotics, or live beneficial bacteria, as a component of treatment, according to new research from Loyola University's Chicago Health Sciences Division.

Here are seven findings from the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE.

• The scientists found a significant increase in a particular type of potentially harmful bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae in the gastrointestinal tracts of trauma patients. They also recorded a corresponding decrease in beneficial bacteria that would normally keep bugs like Enterobacteriaceae in check.

• Enterobacteriaceae is a family of bacteria that includes pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonaella.

• Fecal samples taken from severe burn victims five to 17 days after their injuries occurred were compared with samples from a group of patients who suffered only minor burns. In the severely burned group, the potentially harmful bacteria accounted for 31.9 percent of bacteria in the gut, compared to only 0.5 percent for the minor burn group.

• Imbalances such as this may be contributing to sepsis and other serious infectious complications that cause 75 percent of all deaths in severe burn patients, according to Mashkoor Choudry, PhD, senior author of the paper.

•The significant bacterial imbalance in severe trauma patients may compromise the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, enabling harmful bacteria to seep into the bloodstream.

• Traumatic injury victims may be entering into a cycle where the body's immune system mounts an inflammatory response, causing an imbalance in the bacterial ratio in the gut, which cause that inflammatory response to ramp up more, triggering an even greater imbalance.

• The researchers are planning further studies to better determine whether introducing probiotics could act to interrupt this cycle and help reduce risk of sepsis and other infections.

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