Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Lactobacillus bacteremia, with special focus on the safety of probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG

Minna Salminen

Doctoral dissertation, September 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Helsinki University Central Hospital.

Lactobacilli are gram positive rods, which belong to normal oropharyngeal, gastrointestinal and urogenital flora. They are widely used in food industry and as food additives. Although their virulence is presumed to be very low, opportunistic bacteremic infections, especially in immunocompromised hosts, have been detected. In the present study, the possible effects of increasing probiotic use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) on the occurrence of bacteremia due to lactobacilli was evaluated on population level.

In Finland, 90 Lactobacillus bacteremia cases were reported to the National Infectious Disease Register maintained by National Public Health Institute, during 1995-2000. Their proportion of all bacteremia cases was on average 0.24%, corresponding to 0.3 cases/100 000 inhabitants annually. In the Helsinki University Central Hospital district the corresponding proportion of all bacteremia cases was observed during 1990-2000. Despite LGG intake increased six folded no increasing trend in the occurrence of lactobacilli bacteremia was seen.

A total of 85 Lactobacillus sp. blood isolates collected from different human bacteremic cases were characterised and compared with the commercial probiotic LGG strain. In species characterisation 46 L. rhamnosus strains, 12 L. fermentum and L. casei strains each, three each of L. gasseri, L. salivarius and L. jensenii species, two L. curvatus, and one each of L. plantarum, L. sakei, L. zeae and L. reuteri species were detected. Nearly half of the L. rhamnosus findings turned out to be indistinguishable from the probiotic LGG strain.

Common predisposing factors to Lactobacillus bacteremia were immunosuppression, prior prolonged hospitalisation and prior surgical interventions. Severe or fatal comorbidities were found in 82% of the patients. Mortality at one month was 26% and severe underlying diseases were a significant predictor of death (OR 15.8).

Antimicrobial susceptibility of Lactobacillus strains was species dependent. The Lactobacillus isolates were generally susceptible to imipenem, piperacillin-tazobactam, clindamycin and erythromycin, whereas all other than L. gasseri and L. jensenii species were not at all susceptible to vancomycin. The susceptibility to cephalosporin varied greatly even within species why they might not be recommended for treatment of Lactobacillus infections.

The effect and safety of probiotic LGG preparation in amelioration of gastric symptoms and diarrhea in HIV-infected patients was evaluated. No significant differences in gastrointestinal symptoms or diarrhoea in LGG treated patients compared to placebo could be found. LGG was well tolerated with no adverse effects including bacteremic outbreaks could be observed. The use of probiotic LGG can be regarded safe in this immunocompromised patient group.

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Last updated 04.09.2006

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