GLOBAL ADVANCES IN HEALTH AND MEDICINE
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cochRanE cam REViEW: summaRy of findings
the Effect of probiotics for preventing acute upper
Respiratory tract infections
Ingvil Sæterdal, PhD; Vigdis Underland, MS; Elin Strømme Nilsen, MS
author affiliation s part of its efforts to disseminate the results of gut wall integrity) and systemic immunity (by enhanc-
Ingvil Sæterdal, PhD;
Vigdis Underland, MS;
Cochrane reviews to a wider audience, the ing nonspecific and specific arms of the immune sys-
and Elin Strømme Cochrane Complementary and Alternative tem) are possible explanations.
Nilsen, MS, are all Medicine (CAM) Field develops Summary of Findings This review was carried out to assess the effective-
researchers at the (SoF) tables and then uses those tables as a basis for its ness and safety of probiotics (any specified strain or
plain-language summaries. Each SoF table presents the dose) compared with placebo in the prevention of
branch, Norwegian most important outcomes for the review as well as the acute URTI in people at risk of acute URTI.
Knowledge Centre for effect of the intervention and the quality of the evi-
dence for each outcome. The process of developing the What doEs thE REsEaRch say?
SoF table involves deciding which outcomes to present Not all research provides the same quality of evi-
correspondence for which time points and evaluating the strength and dence. The higher the quality, the more certain we are
Ingvil Sæterdal, PhD quality of the evidence for the outcomes. about what the research says about an effect. The
In this article, we present a Cochrane review about words will (high-quality evidence), probably (moderate-
citation the effects of the use of probiotics for preventing acute quality evidence), and may (low-quality evidence)
Global Adv Health Med. upper respiratory tract infections. We contacted the describe how certain we are about the effect (Table).
authors of the Cochrane review to request clarification The 10 studies that the Cochrane authors reviewed
on points that we did not understand and to have them showed that for people at risk of acute URTI, compared
Summary of findings, review the SoF table. with a placebo, probiotics
Cochrane, CAM, review,
GRADE, upper respira-
tory tract infection,
What aRE acutE uppER REspiRatoRy tRact • may reduce the number of participants who expe-
URTI, common cold, infEctions, and Why pREscRiBE pRoBiotics? rienced URTI episodes (at least 1 event),
sinusitis, probiotics, Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are ill- • have an uncertain effect on the mean duration of
antibiotics nesses caused by an acute infection of the upper respi- an episode of URTI because the quality of evi-
More information about
ratory tract (ie, the nose, sinuses, pharynx, or larynx). dence is very low,
the Cochrane Summary Acute URTIs include the common cold, acute sinusitis, • may reduce the number of participants who used
of Findings tables is acute pharyngitis, acute laryngotracheobronchitis antibiotics, and
available at http://www.
(croup), acute epiglottitis (supraglottitis), acute rhino • may make little or no difference to adverse events.
view/0/ sinusitis and acute otitis media. Acute URTIs are a
SummaryFindings.html. major cause of morbidity, especially in children and None of the studies measured the effect of probiot-
the elderly. They are caused by a large variety of viruses ics on older people.
and bacteria. Common symptoms include cough, fever, In general, side effects are poorly documented and
headache, sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing. it is difficult to provide precise information. In these
Usually, the symptoms subside after a few days. studies, participants experienced minor side effects.
To reduce fever and ease pain and headaches, para- The main side effects were gastrointestinal symptoms
cetamol (acetaminophen), ibuprofen, or aspirin is often such as vomiting, flatulence, and increased irritability.
recommended. Antibiotics are prescribed if the illness However, pooled analysis showed no statistical differ-
becomes chronic and complications develop. However, ence between the probiotics group and the placebo
misuse of antibiotics in acute URTIs caused by viruses is group (low-quality evidence).
common and may contribute to overuse of antibiotics
and risk for development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. WhERE doEs this infoRmation comE fRom?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that might lead