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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 17:54 GMT
Yoghurts used to combat superbugs
Image of clostridium
Free pots of probiotic yoghurt are being handed out
Yoghurts containing "friendly bacteria" are being used as part of a trial to cut the risk of patients developing superbugs at a Cambridgeshire hospital.

Pots of the probiotic yoghurts are being handed out at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge.

They are being given to patients on wards where there have been higher cases of Clostridium difficile.

Dieticians at Addenbrooke's have said evidence suggested the yoghurt might cut the risk of contracting C.diff.

Caroline Heyes, dietetic services manager at Addenbrooke's hospital, said: "Probiotic yoghurts may play a role in preventing C.difficile infection so we have been running a pilot on three of the care of the elderly wards for six months.

"It's early days and the research is not complete yet but the evidence is that it has a role to play in reducing C.diff infection."

'Safe foodstuff'

Year-on-year cases of C.diff at Addenbrooke's have gone down from 54 to 24, a reduction of more than 50%.

"We can't say for sure how much of that benefit is down to the yoghurt and how much they are down to a whole range of infection control procedures that the hospital has in place such as the deep cleaning programme, the bare-below-the-elbow programme, and the increased isolation procedures," Ms Heyes said.

"But probiotic yoghurts may have a role to play. The patients like them, they are a safe foodstuff and they improve the patients food and fluid intake so it really makes sense to give them a try.

Addenbrooke's hospital will decide whether to continue the pilot scheme in March.

In January, scientists said they had hard evidence that foods containing "friendly bacteria" did have a tangible effect on the body.

The journal Molecular Systems Biology reported that mice fed probiotic drinks had different levels of key chemicals in their blood and urine.

The Imperial College London research - which was part-funded by food giant Nestle - also suggested they could change fat digestion but dieticians said this would work only for relatively small numbers of people.

Probiotics, meaning "for life", are products that contain live strains of bacteria incorporated into yoghurts, fruit juices or freeze-dried powders, which boost levels of the bacteria in the gut.

The hospital will decide in March whether to continue with the pro-biotics trial

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