Antibiotics can upset the normal balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract, and one of the most common and dangerous results is infection with C. difficile, bacteria that can cause diarrhea, colitis and even death. Now a review of studies has found that probiotics — beneficial microorganisms introduced into the gut — can reduce the risk.

Researchers, writing online this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, pooled data from 20 randomized controlled trials that compared a course of probiotics with a placebo or no treatment on the incidence of C. difficile-associated diarrhea.

The studies used several types of the probiotics Saccharomyces and Lactobacillus, and the doses varied. Compared with placebo or no treatment, higher and lower doses of these probiotics were more effective in preventing diarrhea in both adults and children. Ingesting more than one species at a time produced an even greater benefit.

Over all, the researchers found, probiotics reduced the risk of C. difficile-associated diarrhea by 66 percent.

Preventing C. difficile-associated diarrhea in this population, he continued, might require more than hand-washing and surface-cleaning.

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