Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. Probiotics come mainly in the form of dietary supplements and foods, such as yogurt.
Probiotics are frequently used by women to help prevent vaginal infections, although research has shown mixed results.
Researchers at the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil achieved a positive result in their study, demonstrating “that probiotic lactobacilli can increase the effectiveness of an anti-fungal pharmaceutical agent”. 1 The randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial found that taking four weeks of a combination of two Lactobacillus species after a single dose of the anti-yeast drug fluconazole, decreased the recurrence rate of vaginal yeast infection by 71 percent, compared to fluconazole plus placebo. Fluconazole is the generic name for Diflucan.
1. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2009 Mar;48(3):269-74. Epub 2009 Feb
Improved treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis with fluconazole plus probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14.Martinez RC, Franceschini SA, Patta MC, Quintana SM, Candido RC, Ferreira JC, De Martinis EC, Reid G.Departamento de Análises Clínicas, Toxicológicas e Bromatológicas, Faculdade de Ciências Farmacêuticas de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.
AIMS: To determine the ability of probiotic lactobacilli to improve the treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) using a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial. METHODS AND RESULTS: Fifty-five women diagnosed with VVC by vaginal discharge positive for Candida spp. (according to culture method) associated with at least one of the symptoms (itching and burning vaginal feeling, dyspareunia and dysuria), were treated with single dose of fluconazole (150 mg) supplemented every morning for the following 4 weeks with two placebo or two probiotic capsules (containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14). At 4 weeks, the probiotic treated group showed significantly less vaginal discharge associated with any of the above mentioned symptoms (10.3%vs 34.6%; P = 0.03) and lower presence of yeast detected by culture (10.3%vs 38.5%; P = 0.014). CONCLUSION: This study has shown that probiotic lactobacilli can increase the effectiveness of an anti-fungal pharmaceutical agent in curing disease. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: This novel finding of probiotic lactobacilli augmenting the cure rate of yeast vaginitis, not only offers an alternative approach to a highly prevalent condition that adversely affects the quality of life of women around the world, but also raises the question of how this combination works.
J Chemother. 2009 Jun;21(3):243-52. The role of lactobacillus probiotics in the treatment or prevention of urogenital infections–a systematic review. Abad CL, Safdar N. Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, WI 53792, USA.
Probiotics are increasingly being used to treat and prevent urogenital infections. However, a critical assessment of their efficacy in major urogenital infections is lacking. We report the results of a systematic review to determine the efficacy of probiotics for prevention or treatment of three major urogenital infections: bacterial vaginosis, vulvovaginal candidiasis, and urinary tract infection. Using multiple computerized databases, we extracted data from clinical trials using a lactobacillus-containing preparation to either prevent or treat a urogenital infection. Of 25 included studies, 18 studies used lactobacillus preparations for treatment or prevention of urogenital infections and seven studies focused solely on vaginal colonization. Four studies included patients with vaginal candidiasis, five included patients with urinary tract infections, and eight included patients with bacterial vaginosis. One included several types of genitourinary infections. Overall, lactobacilli were beneficial for the treatment of patients with bacterial vaginosis. No clear benefit was seen for candidiasis or urinary tract infection. Studies were heterogeneous, with some limited by a small population size. In conclusion, the use of certain lactobacillus strains such as L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri for prevention and treatment of recurrent urogenital infection is promising, especially for recurrent bacterial vaginosis. Scant data on the use of probiotics for urinary tract infection and vulvovaginal candidiasis precludes definitive recommendations. Further research and larger studies on types of lactobacilli strains, dosage of lactobacilli, optimal route and vehicle of administration are needed.
J Antimicrob Chemother. 2006 Aug;58(2):266-72. Epub 2006 Jun 21. Probiotics for prevention of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: a review.Falagas ME, Betsi GI, Athanasiou S.Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences (AIBS) Athens, Greece. email@example.com
Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) is a common infection affecting the quality of life of many women. Probiotics have been investigated as possible agents for the prevention of recurrences of VVC. We reviewed the available literature. In some studies the development of VVC was associated with either a low number of lactobacilli in the vagina or with the presence of H2O2-non-producing vaginal lactobacilli, although there are a few studies not supporting these statements. In addition, in vitro studies have shown that lactobacilli can inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and/or its adherence on the vaginal epithelium. The results of some clinical trials support the effectiveness of lactobacilli, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus fermentum RC-14, administered either orally or intravaginally in colonizing the vagina and/or preventing the colonization and infection of the vagina by C. albicans, while the results of a small number of clinical trials do not corroborate these findings. Nevertheless, most of the relevant clinical trials had methodological problems such as small sample size, no control group (placebo) and included women without confirmed recurrent VVC, and thus they are not reliable for drawing definitive conclusions. Thus, the available evidence for the use of probiotics for prevention of recurrent VVC is limited. However, the empirical use of probiotics may be considered in women with frequent recurrence of VVC (more than three episodes per year), especially for those who have adverse effects from or contraindications for the use of antifungal agents, since adverse effects of probiotics are very rare. In any case women should be clearly informed about the unproven usefulness of probiotics for this purpose. In conclusion, despite the promising results of some studies, further research is needed to prove the effectiveness of probiotics in preventing the recurrences of VVC and to allow their wide use for this indication.