NProbiotics are effective in preventing hepatic encephalopathy in patients with cirrhosis of the liver, according to a study by the Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital, New Delhi.ew Delhi:
Hepatic encephalopathy is the deterioration of brain function - a serious complication of liver disease.
The research shows that probiotics modify the gut microbiota to prevent hepatic encephalopathy.
According to experts, the results offer a safe, well tolerated and a cheaper alternative to current treatments.
The researchers at G.B. Pant conducted a single-centre, randomised trial with cirrhosis patients who showed risk factors for hepatic encephalopathy, but had yet to experience an obvious episode.
When comparing treatment with probiotics versus placebo, the researchers found that the incidence of hepatic encephalopathy was lower in patients treated with probiotics.
Probiotic supplementation was not associated with any side effects and none of the patients required discontinuation of therapy.
“These results suggest that probiotics are similar in effectiveness to the current standard of care, lactulose, in the prevention of hepatic encephalopathy, yet they appear to be much better tolerated,” researchers added.
Up to 45 percent of patients with cirrhosis develop hepatic encephalopathy, a loss of brain function that occurs when the liver is unable to remove toxins from the blood.
Prognosis is poor, with a 58 percent mortality rate at one year, and a 77 percent mortality rate at three years.
"These results offer a safe, well tolerated and perhaps cheaper alternative to current treatments," said David W. Victor III, who contributed an editorial in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology on this research.