Germ warfare in Swedish hospitals

Lactobacillus plantarum --  "Good" germs may work as well as antiseptics in protecting hospital patients from dangerous infections, Swedish researchers reported

Lactobacillus plantarum -- "good" germs that help protect patients from infection according to studies from Sweden. Photo: Reuters

This Reuters news story titled “Good germs fight bad germs in hospital” has important implications for raw milk safety. No longer is the sole official index of safety the mere absence of “germs”. No, here is some recognition for the reality that not all germs are bad and that good germs can be beneficial in controlling bad germs. Read on:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – “Good” germs may work as well as antiseptics in protecting hospital patients from dangerous infections, Swedish researchers reported on Wednesday.

Patients swabbed with probiotic bacteria called Lactobacillus plantarum 299 escaped infection as well as those cleaned up using the antiseptic chlorhexidine, they reported.

Both approaches worked equally well in preventing pneumonia among 50 critically ill patients using ventilators, Bengt Klarin of University Hospital in Lund, Sweden, and colleagues found.

Ventilator-associated pneumonia is common as patients aspirate germs from the equipment — often bacteria that have formed drug-resistant mats called biofilms.

Klarin’s team tested the idea that probiotic bacteria could out-compete pathogenic bacteria. Half the patients were swabbed with chlorhexidine as usual, and half were given a final wipe with L. plantarum 299 instead.

“We hypothesized that swabbing the mouth with probiotics would be an effective (and microbiologically attractive) method of reducing pathogenic oral microorganisms in intubated, mechanically ventilated, critically ill patients,” Klarin said in a statement.

Writing in the BioMed Central journal Critical Care, they noted that L. plantarum is normally found in saliva and in pickled food such as sauerkraut.

“Based on the results of this pilot study, we conclude that the probiotic bacterium Lp299 constitutes a feasible and safe agent for oral care,” they wrote in the study, available on the Internet at

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Xavier Briand)

Thanks to “Lacido” for drawing this story to our attention with his comment on a recent post on the Complete Patient blog.

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