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Revista Española de Enfermedades Digestivas

Print version ISSN 1130-0108

Rev. esp. enferm. dig. vol.105 n.1 Madrid Jan. 2013

http://dx.doi.org/10.4321/S1130-01082013000100005 

ORIGINAL PAPERS

 

Effect of probiotic species on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: A bring up to date meta-analysis

Efecto de los probióticos en los síntomas del síndrome del intestino irritable: un meta-análisis actualizado

 

 

María Ortiz-Lucas1, Aurelio Tobias2, Pablo Saz3 and Juan José Sebastián4

1Bachelor Degree in Biochemistry. School of Health Sciences. Universidad de San Jorge. Zaragoza, Spain.
2Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA). Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Barcelona, Spain.
3School of Medicine. Universidad de Zaragoza. Zaragoza, Spain.
4Department of Gastroenterology. Hospital Royo Villanova. Zaragoza, Spain

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

Background and objectives: immune system alteration in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients may be modulated by probiotics. We assessed the efficacy of some probiotic species in alleviating characteristic IBS symptoms.
Material and methods: a meta-analysis of all identified randomized controlled trials comparing probiotics with placebo in treating IBS symptoms was performed with continuous data summarized using standardized mean differences (SMDs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs), where appropriate. The random-effects model was employed in cases of heterogeneity; otherwise, fixed-effects models were used.
Results: meta-analysis was performed with 10 of 24 studies identified as suitable for inclusion. Probiotics improved pain scores if they contained Bifidobacterium breve (SMD, -0.34; 95% CI, -0.66; -0.02), Bifidobacterium longum (SMD, -0.48; 95% CI, -0.91; -0.06), or Lactobacillus acidophilus (SMD, -0.31; 95% CI, -0.61; -0.01) species. Distension scores were improved by probiotics containing B. breve (SMD, -0.45; 95% CI, -0.77; -0.13), Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus casei, or Lactobacillus plantarum (SMD, -0.53; 95% CI, -1.00; -0.06) species. All probiotic species tested improved flatulence: B. breve (SMD, -0.42; 95% CI, -0.75;-0.10), B. infantis, L. casei, L. plantarum (SMD, -0.60; 95% CI, -1.07; -0.13), B. longum, L. acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Streptococcus salivarius ssp. thermophilus (SMD, -0.61; 95% CI, -1.01; -0.21). There was not a clear positive effect of probiotics concerning the quality of life.
Conclusions: some probiotics are an effective therapeutic option for IBS patients, and the effects on each IBS symptom are likely species-specific. Future studies must focus on the role of probiotics in modulating intestinal microbiota and the immune system while considering individual patient symptom profiles.

Key words: Probiotics. Irritable bowel syndrome. Immune system. Meta-analysis.


RESUMEN

Antecedentes y objetivos: la alteración del sistema inmune en los pacientes con síndrome del intestino irritable (SII) podría modularse por el efecto de los probióticos. Se evaluó la eficacia de algunas especies de probióticos en el alivio de síntomas característicos del SII.
Material y métodos: se realizó un meta-análisis de todos los ensayos clínicos aleatorios identificados donde se comparaba los probióticos con el placebo en el tratamiento de síntomas del SII. El meta-análisis se realizó empleando datos continuos empleando diferencias de medias estandarizadas (DME) con intervalos de confianza del 95% (IC 95%). Se empleó el modelo de efectos aleatorios en casos de heterogeneidad, si no, el modelo de efectos fijos.
Resultados: el meta-análisis se realizó con 10 de los 24 estudios que cumplían los criterios de inclusión. Los probióticos mejoraron el dolor si contenían las especies Bifidobacterium breve (DME, 0,34; IC 95%, -0,66; -0,02), Bifidobacterium longum (DME, -0,48; IC 95%, -0,91; -0,06), o Lactobacillus acidophilus (DME, -0,31; IC 95%, -0,61; -0,01). La distensión mejoró si los probióticos contenían las especies B. breve (DME, -0,45; IC 95%, -0,77; -0,13), Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus casei, o Lactobacillus plantarum (DME, -0,53; IC 95%, -1,00; -0,06). Todas las especies de probióticos evaluadas mejoraron la flatulencia: B. breve (DME, -0,42; IC 95%, -0,75; -0,10), B. infantis, L. casei, L. plantarum (DME, -0,60; IC 95%, -1,07; -0,13), B. longum, L. acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, y Streptococcus salivarius ssp. thermophilus (DME, -0,61; IC 95%, -1,01; -0,21). No hubo un efecto positivo claro de los probióticos en relación a la calidad de vida.
Conclusiones: algunos probióticos son una opción terapéutica eficaz para los pacientes con SII, y sus efectos en cada síntoma del SII parecen ser específicos de la especie. Los futuros estudios deberían focalizarse en el papel de los probióticos en la modulación de la microbiota intestinal y del sistema inmune considerando el perfil de síntomas individual para cada paciente.

Palabras clave: Probióticos. Síndrome del intestino irritable. Sistema inmune. Meta-análisis.


Abbreviations
C: Constipation.
CG: Control group.
CI: Confidence interval.
D: Diarrhea.
IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome.
QOL: Quality of life.
SD: Standard deviation.
SMD: Standardised mean differences.
TG: Treatment group.

 

Introduction

Defining and treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be challenging. Among the wide variety of treatment options, probiotics appear to be one of the best options (1). Recently, growing evidence has suggested an alteration in the immune system cell profile of IBS patients and a close relationship between the immune and nervous systems (2,3). Furthermore, several authors have studied the relationship between probiotic intake and blood cytokine levels (4) or changes in fecal microbiota (5,6).

Several reviews and meta-analyses that have evaluated the role of probiotics in IBS therapy have concluded that probiotics appear to improve overall IBS symptoms (7-12). However, a meta-analysis that includes any probiotic in the evaluation of symptom relief may not be the best method for assessing the efficacy of specific probiotics (11-13). Therefore, we assessed the efficacy of each specific probiotic species in alleviating characteristic IBS symptoms.

 

Methods

Study selection

A deep search of the PubMed, Cochrane Library, and EMBASE databases was performed for randomized controlled trials published up until January 31, 2012. An open search was conducted using the MeSH search terms "Probiotics" and "Irritable Bowel Syndrome". If a study could not be included/excluded based on the Title/Abstract field, the full text of the article was reviewed. Furthermore, the reference lists of studies that met inclusion criteria, pertinent review articles, and meta-analyses (7-12) were sought manually to identify additional relevant publications.

Selection criteria

Randomized controlled trials meeting all of the following criteria were included:

- Comparison of the efficacy of any probiotic therapy versus placebo for patients with IBS. Both groups had to be treated equally with the exception of the probiotic therapy.

- Rome criteria I, II, or III for the diagnosis of IBS.

- Subjects were adult patients (age ≥ 18 years).

- Study results were published in English or Spanish.

Exclusion criteria

- Studies evaluating the efficacy of a symbiotic or a prebiotic.

- Additional therapy provided to both groups (e.g., drugs).

- Crossover studies.

- Studies including pathologies other than IBS.

- Congress abstracts.

Rules for selection among several effect estimates

Many of the studies selected for this meta-analysis reported more than 1 estimated effect of the results. Each result was analyzed by grouping studies with the same result measurement and making comparisons among them for each of the probiotic species. Evaluated symptoms included abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating or distension, stool frequency, stool consistency, flatulence, straining at stool, incomplete evacuation, fecal urgency, and IBS quality of life (QOL).

Investigators provided patients with a probiotic strain mixture in most studies. Considering this fact, and to analyze the possible effect of each probiotic individually, data were collected for a probiotic species if the study contained the species listed below, regardless of whether it contained other species. The following probiotic species were evaluated: Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis and ssp. animalis, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus paracasei ssp. paracasei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus salivarius ssp. salivarius, Lactobacillus suntoryeus ssp. HY780I, Lactococcus lactis, Propionibacterium freudenreichii ssp. shermanii, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Streptococcus salivarius ssp. thermophilus.

Data extraction and quality assessment

Information regarding characteristics, outcome assessment and reporting, and adverse study effects was abstracted for each study that was selected for review. The Jadad scale was employed to assess the methodological quality of the retrieved studies (14). This scale adds single scoring points when the study is described as randomized, when it is described as double blind, and when a description of withdrawals and dropouts is present. A description and adequate method of randomization or a description and adequate method of blinding each result in the addition of 2 points. A score of 4 or more points indicated a well-designed study.

Statistical analysis

Sample size and mean and standard deviation (SD) data for each group [treatment group (TG) and control group (CG)] were collected as summary statistics at the end of the treatment period. Data were combined using standardized mean differences (SMD) because different scales were used in the studies to evaluate the effect of probiotics on each symptom. Heterogeneity between studies was assessed using Cochran's Q test, and the I2 index was used to quantify the amount of heterogeneity, with a value greater than 50% indicating substantial heterogeneity (15,16). The study-specific SMDs were weighted by the inverse of their variance to compute a pooled mean difference and its 95% confidence interval (CI) using a random-effects model in cases of heterogeneity (17); otherwise, fixed-effects models were used. All analyses were performed using the Stata (18) 12.0 software (Stata Corporation, College Station, TX, USA).

 

Results

The literature searches yielded 252 publications, 37 of which were considered potentially relevant and were retrieved (4-6,19-52). Of these, 24 studies were judged to meet the inclusion criteria (Fig. 1) (4-6,19-39). Table I contains a list of excluded studies and the reason for exclusion (40-52).

 

Data for the meta-analysis were extracted from 10 studies (19,20,25,29,31,32,34,36,37,39). The other 14 studies were not suitable for meta-analysis.

Study quality

The quality of the studies evaluated in this review was high, with only 6 (25%) having a punctuation lower than 4 (Table II). Items where criteria for a quality indicator were not all fulfilled or could not be evaluated for the majority of studies were "description and adequate method of randomization" and "withdrawals and dropouts", with a total punctuation of 11/24 and 14/24 points, respectively.

From the 10 articles retrieved for the meta-analysis, 3 (30%) had a punctuation lower than 4 (studies highlighted in italics in table II).

 

Study characteristics

The characteristics of the studies included in the review are summarized in table III. This table provides information regarding participants, interventions, and main outcomes. The treatment phase lasted between 4 and 8 weeks in most studies, with the exception of 3 that lasted 5 (5) and 6 months (37,38).

Adverse events

The presence of adverse effects was mentioned in all but 6 studies (6,19-21,32,37). Reported adverse effects were few and were not serious. Additionally, the number of adverse events was similar in the TG and CG.

IBS symptoms

The most common symptoms studied in the randomized controlled trials accepted for review were abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating or distension, stool frequency, stool consistency, flatulence, straining during stool evacuation, incomplete evacuation, fecal urgency, and QOL.

The meta-analysis results are shown in table IV. The results for each IBS symptom evaluated are described according to the presence of a specific probiotic species.

 

Abdominal pain or discomfort

All retrieved studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on pain (4-6,19-39). The meta-analysis revealed a significant effect of probiotics in improving pain scores in probiotics containing B. breve, B. longum, or L. acidophilus species (25,29,31,32,34,36,37,39) and an almost significant effect for S. salivarius ssp. thermophilus species (25,29,31,32,34,36,39). B. animalis, B. infantis, L. casei, L. plantarum, L. bulgaricus, and S. boulardii species did not significantly improve pain (19,20,25,31,34,36,39).

Significant pain alleviation was not found in 16 studies (6,19,20,22-26,29,32,34,36-39), although a pain alleviation trend was found in 4 studies (5,23,32,37). Both the TG and CG improved during the intervention in 5 studies that reported data analyzing individual pain improvement for each of the groups before and after the study (6,24,25,29,34), with the exception of 1 study in which the TG improved but not the CG (24).

Probiotics significantly improved pain in 6 studies (4,21,28,30,33,35), 2 of which provided data of individual pain improvement for each of the groups before and after the study period. These 2 studies both showed improvement for the TG (21,33) and 1 showed improvement for the CG (21). Whorwell et al. (35) found a statistically significant pain reduction in a subgroup of patients with constipation (C-IBS) compared to the CG.

Two studies only provided data of the improvement for each of the groups before and after the study period (27,31). Both showed a significant improvement in the TG and 1 showed a significant improvement in the CG (27).

Abdominal bloating or distension

Eighteen studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on distension (4,5,19-25,27,29-31,34-37,39). The meta-analysis revealed that probiotics significantly improved distension scores if they contained B. breve, B. infantis, L. casei, or L. plantarum species (36,37,39). B. animalis, B. longum, L. acidophilus, S. boulardii, L. bulgaricus, or S. salivarius ssp. thermophilus species did not significantly affect distension (19,20,25,29,31,34,36,39).

Distension was not significantly improved in 13 studies (4,19,20,22-25,29,30,34,36,37,39), although 5 studies, showed a trend toward improvement (23,30,36,37,39). Of these 13 studies, 5 reported the data by analyzing individual distension improvement for each of the groups before and after the study (24,25,29,34,39). Both the TG and CG improved during the intervention in these studies, with the exception of 2 studies in which the TG improved but not the CG (24,39).

Probiotics significantly improved distension in 3 studies (5,21,35). Whorwell et al. (35) found a trend of decreased distension in the subgroup of patients with diarrhea (D-IBS) compared to the CG.

Two studies only provided data on the improvement for each of the groups before and after the study period (27,31), both of which showed a significant improvement in the TG and CG.

Stool frequency

Sixteen studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on stool frequency (4,6,19-22,26,28,30,32-37,39). Probiotics containing B. breve, B. infantis, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. plantarum, or S. salivarius ssp. thermophilus species (36,37,39) did not improve frequency scores according to the meta-analysis.

Only 2 of 16 studies showed a significant decrease in the stool frequency (22,26). One study showed an increased trend in the stool frequency, which was also shown in the alternators IBS subgroup, but this tendency was not found in the D-IBS or C-IBS subgroup (37). Drouault-Holowacz et al. (32) found a significant increase in the stool frequency in a subgroup of patients with C-IBS at weeks 1, 2, and 3, but not at week 4, of probiotic consumption. Guyonnet et al. (34) found a significant increase in a subgroup of patients with less than 3 stools per week. Whorwell et al. (35) found a normalization of bowel habits in patients below the 15th and above the 81th stool frequency percentiles.

Stool consistency

Sixteen studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on stool consistency (4-6,19,20,22,26,28,30,32-37,39). Probiotics containing B. breve, B. infantis, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. plantarum, or S. salivarius ssp. thermophilus species (36,39) did not significantly improve consistency scores according to the meta-analysis.

Although none of these studies showed a significant improvement on stool consistency, improvement trends were found by Agrawal et al. (30) and Whorwell et al. (35) in a group treated with 1 × 106 live bacterial cells. Nobaek et al. (6) found a significant decrease in the number of days with rather loose to very loose stools and a significant increase in the number of days with normal stools, but not in the number of days with rather hard to very hard stools.

Flatulence

Ten studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on flatulence (5,6,26,28,30-32,36,37,39). The meta-analysis found that all probiotic species studied: B. breve, B. infantis, L. casei, L. plantarum, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, and S. salivarius ssp. thermophilus (31,36,37,39) significantly improved flatulence scores.

Significant improvements in flatulence were not found in 6 studies (5,26,28,30,37,39), although 2 (5,30) showed a trend of improvement. Kajander et al. (37) found a significant improvement in flatulence in those patients in whom the symptom score had decreased.

Flatulence was significantly improved by probiotics in 3 studies (6,32,36). Individual flatulence improvement for the TG and CG was found before and after the study period in 1 study (6). Improvement in the TG but not the CG before and after the study period was found in another study (31).

Straining during stool evacuation

Seven studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on straining (20,30,33,35-37,39). Probiotics containing B. breve, B. infantis, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. plantarum, or S. salivarius ssp. thermophilus species (36,39) did not significantly improve straining scores according to the meta-analysis.

Straining was not alleviated in 5 studies (20,30,36,37,39), but a trend toward improvement was found in 1 of these studies (30).

Probiotics significantly improved straining in the TG and a subgroup of patients with D-IBS compared to the CG in 1 study (35). Sinn et al. (33) found a significant decrease in straining when considering the percentage reduction of the symptom score and found an improvement in the TG, but not in the CG, when comparing data before and after the study period.

Sense of incomplete evacuation

Seven studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on the sense of incomplete evacuation (20,21,30,33,35-37), 3 of which did not show a significant improvement (20,21,36). One of these studies (20) showed an improvement in the TG, but not in the CG, when comparing data before and after the study.

Probiotics significantly improved the sense of incomplete evacuation in 4 studies (30,33,35,37). Sinn et al. (33) found a significant improvement when considering the percentage reduction of the symptom score and found a significant improvement in both the TG and CG when comparing data before and after the study period. Whorwell et al. (35) found an improvement in the subgroup of patients with D-IBS compared to the CG.

Fecal urgency

Nine studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on fecal urgency (4,20,21,26,30,35-37,39). Probiotics containing B. breve, B. infantis, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. plantarum, or S. salivarius ssp. thermophilus (36,39) did not significantly improve fecal urgency according to the meta-analysis.

Fecal urgency was not significantly improved in 6 studies (4,20,26,35,36,39). One of these studies (35) found a trend for improved urgency and another (39) found an improvement in the TG, but not in the CG, when comparing data before and after the study period.

Probiotics significantly improved urgency in 4 studies (4,21,30,37). O'Mahonny et al. (4) found this improvement in the group treated with B. infantis at weeks 2, 3, 5, and 6 and at week 1 of the wash out period. This improvement was not observed in the group treated with L. salivarius ssp. salivarius. Whorwell et al. (35) found a trend of decreased fecal urgency in the subgroup of patients with D-IBS compared to the CG.

IBS QOL

Twelve studies evaluated the effects of probiotics on QOL (4,5,20,21,24-26,28,29,32,35,38), 7 of which did not find a significant improvement (24-26,28,32,35,38). One of these studies (24) found an improvement in the TG, but not in the CG, when comparing data before and after the study period.

Probiotics significantly improved QOL in 5 studies (4,5,20,21,29). Choi et al. (20) found a significant improvement in the percentage reduction of the symptom score and Williams et al. (29) found an improvement in the TG and CG when comparing data before and after the study period. Kajander et al. (5) showed a significant improvement in "bowel symptoms", a trend for improved "fatigue", but no effects on "activity limitations" and "emotional function" items. O'Mahonny et al. (4) found lower IBS-QOL scores for L. salivarius ssp. salivarius and B. infantis for most domains, but they only showed significance for "health worry" in the B. infantis group and a trend of improved "dysphoria" in the L. salivarius ssp. salivarius group.

 

Discussion

This review and meta-analysis provides additional evidence for the beneficial effect of probiotics in IBS treatment. Several authors found altered microbiota in IBS patients (53-57). Intestinal bacteria may play a significant role in inducing IBS because a change in the microbiota can lead to an activation of the immune system, which could explain symptom generation and the effects on the central nervous system (58-64). Probiotic intake may preserve the fecal microbiota (5), normalize the cytokine blood levels (4), improve the intestinal transit time (30), decrease the small intestine permeability (31), and alter the fermentation pattern reducing the small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (65) in these patients, but further research is required to confirm these results.

Although positive effects of probiotics were found in this review and meta-analysis, many studies have not found a significant effect. This may result from the significant improvements found in the TG and in CG when comparing data from the baseline in many of these studies, which is consistent with the placebo effect and with the fluctuating symptoms found in these patients (66-68).

The differences in these study results could also be attributable to the characteristics of the disease. Rome criteria provide a useful tool to diagnose IBS patients, but the subjectivity of quantifying IBS symptoms is a limitation when studying the efficacy of a therapy (68-70). Additionally, these differences can be due to variations in study design, duration, IBS population, and probiotic dose and species. These factors make it difficult to compare the results of these studies.

Although other published reviews and meta-analyses have studied the effects of probiotics in IBS patients (7-12,71), our study evaluated the efficacy of probiotics on a wide variety of IBS symptoms. This allowed us to determine whether a specific probiotic species is beneficial for treating individual IBS symptoms. To our knowledge, only 1 other meta-analysis studied the effects of individual species on IBS treatment. The authors found no impact on symptoms in patients treated with Lactobacilli but found a significant improvement when patients were treated with probiotic combinations. They suggested that Bifidobacteria were the active ingredients in probiotic combinations because they found a non-significant improvement trend from Bifidobacteria for IBS symptoms (12).

The results of this meta-analysis corroborate the positive effects found for the treatment of pain in IBS patients in other meta-analyses (7,10,12). However, Hoveyda et al. found this improvement when considering dichotomous data but not continuous data (7) and McFarland et al. only considered dichotomous data in their analysis (10). Other reviews state that probiotics have a positive effect on abdominal pain, suggesting that this effect is species specific (11,71).

The different results found in other meta-analyses concerning the efficacy of probiotics in improving distension could be explained by the presence or absence of different probiotic species in the mixture, as shown in this meta-analysis (7,12). This is corroborated by other reviews (11,71).

We found that the presence of any probiotic species had a positive effect on flatulence. Other meta-analysis found a positive effect when considering any probiotic mixture (7,12). However, Hoveyda et al. (7) noted this improvement when considering dichotomous data but not when considering continuous data.

The effects of probiotics on the frequency or consistency of stools should be studied with caution because these factors vary in IBS patients. Some of the retrieved studies found that probiotics had a positive effect on the frequency of stools in D-IBS patients (24,26,35), while others did not (37,39). Similarly, positive (32,34,35) or negative (37) results were found for C-IBS patients. No effects on the consistency of stools have been shown in D-IBS and C-IBS subgroups (6,26,34,37,39), with the exception of Nobaek et al. (6) (see results) and a trend of improvement in C-IBS patients (37). Further analyses should be performed on the stool profiles of these patients.

In addition to the previously discussed factors, future studies should include aspects such as focusing probiotics treatment on patients with a predominance of gastrointestinal symptoms, obtaining the microbiological profile of patients (55), or considering the psychological profile of patients (72).

Although the absence of adverse effects is an additional advantage of probiotic therapy, clinicians should consider the global state of the patient before prescribing them (13,60,72).

A study published after our meta-analysis found that a probiotic mixture containing L. acidophilus (KCTC 11906BP), L. plantarum (KCTC 11867BP), L. rhamnosus (KCTC 11868BP), B. breve (KCTC 11858BP), Bifidobacterium lactis (KCTC 11903BP), B. longum (KCTC 11860BP), and Streptococcus thermophilus (KCTC 11870BP) did not have a significant effect on abdominal pain or discomfort, distension, stool frequency, urgency, or QOL in D-IBS patients. A significant improvement in stool consistency was seen in the probiotic group (73).

This study has several limitations. Some of the meta-analyses included a small number of randomized controlled trials because many studies did not provide adequate data for performing a meta-analysis. Furthermore, because most studies investigated the effect of a probiotic mixture, we could not carry out our analysis for specific probiotic species and/or mixtures. Instead, the meta-analysis was performed according to the presence of a specific probiotic species; this can provide an estimate of the influence of each species in alleviating individual IBS symptoms. Additionally, the inclusion of many symptoms in the analysis can provide benefits that are more specific for the treatment of individual patients. Another strength of this study is that the meta-analysis was performed with continuous rather than dichotomous data.

These results may enable development of individualized probiotic mixtures for each patient according to the predominant symptoms in the not-so-distant future. This is particularly true in IBS subtypes with a predominance of abdominal pain or discomfort and/or declined QOL, or when there is a predominance of abdominal distension or severe fecal urgency. We doubt that a standard probiotic mixture can improve any IBS symptom profile. Therefore, a standard IBS therapy that can be administered to every patient may not be possible.

In conclusion, evidence suggests that probiotics are an effective treatment option for IBS patients and that the effects of probiotics on each IBS symptom are likely species-specific. Future research should focus more specifically on species, combinations, dose, duration, IBS subtypes, and IBS individual symptoms, while employing standardized measurement tools. Although probiotics are a safe therapy, clinicians should consider other concomitant pathologies when prescribing them to their patients.

Our Research Group in Functional Digestive Disorders and Psychoimmunology, which is within the framework of the Biomedical Research Map of the Aragon Institu-te of Health Sciences in Spain, is convinced that the key factors in IBS are the immune system and intestinal microbiota after a detailed review of the scientific evidence concerning IBS. Therefore, we think that IBS treatment should focus on both of these factors influencing intestinal dysbiosis by considering the effects of different probiotic species on the symptomatology of individual patients.

Finally, we anticipate that a better design and combination of probiotics will soon be available for the treatment of IBS and other pathologies involving intestinal and general immunity.

 

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Correspondence:
María Ortiz Lucas
School of Medicine
Universidad de San Jorge
Autovía A-23 Zaragoza-Huesca, km. 299
50830 Villanueva de Gállego. Zaragoza, Spain
e-mail: mariaortizlucas@gmail.com

Received: 03-09-2012
Accepted: 28-01-2013

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