Antibiotics (Basel). 2022 Feb 8;11(2):217. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics11020217.
The understanding of the gut microbiome in health and disease has shown tremendous progress in the last decade. Shaped and balanced throughout life, the gut microbiome is intricately related to the local and systemic immune system and a multitude of mechanisms through which the gut microbiome contributes to the host's defense against pathogens have been revealed. Similarly, a plethora of negative consequences, such as superinfections and an increased rate of hospital re-admissions, have been identified when the gut microbiome is disturbed by disease or by the iatrogenic effects of antibiotic treatment and other interventions. In this review, we describe the role that probiotics may play in the intensive care unit (ICU). We discuss what is known about the gut microbiome of the critically ill, and the concept of probiotic intervention to positively modulate the gut microbiome. We summarize the evidence derived from randomized clinical trials in this context, with a focus on the prevention of ventilator-associated pneumonia. Finally, we consider what lessons we can learn in terms of the current challenges, efficacy and safety of probiotics in the ICU and what we may expect from the future. Throughout the review, we highlight studies that have provided conceptual advances to the field or have revealed a specific mechanism; this narrative review is not intended as a comprehensive summary of the literature.