Something interesting is happening in hospitals across the country. According to a recent survey involving more than 140 hospitals in U.S. cities, more and more patients are receiving probiotics—beneficial bacteria known to support immune health—as part of their treatment regimen.
Based on their survey findings, the use of probiotics in hospitals increased nearly threefold from 2006 to 2012—and by 2012 probiotics were used in 2.6% of hospitalizations and 96% of hospitals. Among the most commonly used probiotic formulations were Saccharomyces boulardii (32% of patients receiving probiotics), Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus (30%), L acidophilus (28%) and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (11%).
While study authors agree additional research is needed to further explore the benefits including probiotics in the treatment plan of hospital patients, they hope the practice may help address the growing problem of health care-associated infections, or HAIs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one HAI on any given day, and particularly common are those caused by the bacterium C. difficile. Using probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics (which often kill off many of our good bacteria) may ultimately help strengthen the gut microbiome—home to at least 70% of our immune system—and redefine hospital care nationwide.