A new research shows that probiotics are effective in preventing hepatic encephalopathy in patients with live cirrhosis.

Hepatic encephalopathy is a weakening of brain function that is a serious complication of liver disease. The study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that probiotics change the gut microbiota to prevent hepatic encephalopathy.

Researchers at Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital, New Delhi, India, said that the study results of probiotics offer a safe, well tolerated and a cheaper alternative to current treatments.

For the study, the researchers conducted a single-centre, randomised trial with cirrhosis patients who showed risk factors for hepatic encephalopathy, but had yet to experience an obvious episode.

After comparing treatment with probiotics versus placebo, the researchers found that the occurrences of hepatic encephalopathy were less in patients who took probiotics.

Around 45 percent of liver cirrhosis patients developed hepatic encephalopathy, a loss of brain function that occurs when the liver is unable to remove toxins from the blood. Prognosis wass poor, with a 58 percent mortality rate at one year, and a 77 percent mortality rate at three years.

Researchers said that intake of probiotic did not result in to any side effects and none of the patients required discontinuation of therapy. They said that the findings show that probiotics are similar in effectiveness to the current standard of care, lactulose, in the prevention of hepatic encephalopathy, yet they appear to be much better tolerated.

 "These results offer a safe, well tolerated and perhaps cheaper alternative to current treatments," said David W. Victor III, who contributed an editorial in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology on this research.