Probiotics for patients with compensated liver cirrhosis: A double-blind placebo-controlled study

David Pereg*, Andy Kotliroff, Natan Gadoth, Ruth Hadary, Michael Lishner, Yona Kitay-Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Background: Gut flora is related to the major complications of liver cirrhosis including hepatic encephalopathy, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, and variceal bleeding. Prior studies have reported a beneficial effect of gut flora modification with probiotic bacteria in patients with minimal hepatic encephalopathy. We aimed to study the effect of probiotics on clinical and laboratory parameters of patients with compensated cirrhosis. Methods: A double-blind placebo-controlled study that included patients with liver cirrhosis and at least one major complication of cirrhosis in the past, clinical evidence of portal hypertension, or decreased hepatic synthetic function. Participants were randomly assigned to receive probiotic capsules containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Streptococcus thermophiles or placebo for a period of 6 mo. Results: A total of 36 patients were available for final analysis (distributed equally between the probiotic and placebo groups). The administration of probiotics was not associated with significant differences in either clinical or laboratory parameters between the two groups. Because the lack of a beneficial effect may be related to the compensated liver disease of patients, we conducted a subanalysis of patients with baseline ammonia levels >50 mmol/L. In this subgroup, the administration of probiotics appeared to significantly reduce the ammonia levels starting after 1 mo of treatment. However, this effect diminished and lost its significance following comparison to the placebo group. Conclusions: Our study did not show a significant beneficial effect of probiotic supplementation in patients with compensated liver cirrhosis. Nevertheless, it points toward a possible positive effect of probiotics in patients with above normal baseline ammonia levels. This issue requires further investigation in larger cohorts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-181
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Ammonia
  • Cirrhosis
  • Gut flora
  • Hepatic encephalopathy


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