Probiotics, when considered in clinical practice, have traditionally been used for prophylaxis; however, there is growing data suggesting treatment benefits in numerous disease states. In this review, we focus on probiotics as treatment for and prevention of several acute and chronic infectious processes including Helicobacter pylori, Clostridium difficile, necrotizing enterocolitis, ventilatorassociated pneumonia, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It is inaccurate to generalize findings observed in a single probiotic species to all probiotics. This reasoning is due to the variability of colonizing abilities of native intestinal floras, probiotic or otherwise, secondary to different combinations, doses, and duration of treatments. Given these limitations, multiple animal and human studies have shown anti-inflammatory and selective antimicrobial effects of specific probiotics. Some studies suggest a role for probiotics as supplemental treatment, in combination with antibiotics, for the aforementioned disease processes. It is apparent from this review that the efficacy of probiotics is widely variable and multifaceted. More focused clinical and basic science research is necessary to better understand the treatment potential of various probiotics.
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