The use of daily probiotics does not reduce winter antibiotic prescriptions for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in asthma patients.

“These results differ from previous findings in controlled trials mainly involving younger children that probiotics reduce respiratory tract infections and resulting antibiotic prescription rates, and they cast doubt on the reproducibility of those findings in older children and adults with asthma using information leaflets,” the researchers write.

Timothy D. H. Smith, MBBCh, MRCGP, Harambee Surgery, National Health Service East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, United Kingdom, and colleagues report their findings in an article published in the September/October issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

A 2011 Cochrane review suggested that probiotic prophylaxis significantly reduced URTIs and antibiotic prescriptions for URTIs in randomized controlled trials of specific populations. One small pilot study in patients with asthma found that probiotics in combination with acupuncture reduced respiratory infection rates, but the study was underpowered (n = 17), and the results were not statistically significant (P = .18).

“Probiotics alone for preventing antibiotic use in asthmatics have not, to our knowledge, been evaluated in a prospective controlled trial,” the authors write. “We undertook a pragmatic trial to assess whether advice to take probiotic treatment, implemented as part of routine winter infection advice, could reduce antibiotic prescription rates and respiratory tract infections in older children and adults with asthma in a primary care setting.”

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