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Benign—Not: Unexpected deaths in probiotics study

Prescribing "good" bugs for the gut—it may sometimes be bad medicine.

That's what Dutch doctors have concluded after reviewing the findings of a novel treatment in people with acute pancreatitis.

The researchers knew that some of their 296 patients would succumb to infectious complications of an inflamed pancreas, a gland that makes hormones and digestive juices. But they never expected that patients provided nutrition laced with probiotics—supposedly beneficial gut microbes—would experience a death rate nearly triple that of people fed just the nutrients.

Yogurts and other foods or dietary supplements containing probiotics have reduced infections and the severity of gastrointestinal disorders in many trials. So, Dutch physicians looked to see if probiotics would similarly benefit newly diagnosed acute-pancreatitis patients.

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