"Given this finding, one way to reduce the use of antibiotics is to use probiotics on a regular basis," said Daniel Merenstein, the study's senior investigator.
"We already have evidence that consuming probiotics reduces the incidence, duration, and severity of certain types of common acute respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. The question is whether that reduction is solidly linked to declining use of antibiotics, and we see that there is an association," Merenstein added.
Sarah King, lead author of the study, said, "More studies are needed in all ages, and particularly in the elderly, to see if sustained probiotic use is connected to an overall reduction in antibiotic prescriptions. If so, this could potentially have a huge impact on the use of probiotics in general medicine and consumers in general."
"We don't know all the mechanisms probiotic strains may leverage. But since most of the human immune system is found in the gastrointestinal tract, ingesting healthy bacteria may competitively exclude bacterial pathogens linked to gut infections and may prime the immune system to fight others," King added.
The study appears in the European Journal of Public Health.