As the grass grows, the cow dies

This column is written by Stig Bengmark – Professor Emeritus, scientist, lecturer and writer. Read more of Stig Bengmark’s columns here.

Since the end of the 1980s, Professor Peter J Neuhaus has been the director of the Surgery Clinic at the legendary Charité Hospital in Berlin. They have, among other things, one of the world’s largest departments for liver transplantation – about 200 such operations are performed every year. There’s also a large department for abdominal surgery.

I was invited to give a lecture there in the 1990’s. In the audience was a female doctor, Nada Rayes (then a junior doctor, now a recently qualified professor), who was attracted to my concept and managed to get Peter Neuhaus involved in a number of studies with the mixture of beneficial bacteria and fibre that I had developed – my synbiotics that contain four different health bacteria and four strong types of prebiotic fibre that act as food for both bacteria and the body.

In 2004, they completed their first study – this time on liver transplants – and it was so incredibly successful that the world found it difficult to take in.

* Infections after liver transplants were essentially eradicated, one patient (1 of 33 = 3%) who received a catheter in connection with surgery had a mild urinary tract infection, while those who received only the fibre without added bacteria developed infections in half of the cases (17/33 = 51%). In other words, 94% of the patients avoided infection.

* On no less than 18 occasions, bad bacteria were found outside the gut, e.g. in the blood, lungs and urinary tract, among the 17 patients who did not receive the probiotic bacteria. In other words, identification of bacteria outside the gut was reduced by 97%.

* The patients’ use of antibiotics decreased from an average of 3.8 => 0.1 = 3.7 (97%) days with antibiotics, i.e. 97%, and the days they had to stay in intensive care, which are very expensive, dropped from 10.2 => 8.8 days to 1.4 days (14%).

You would think by now, 10 years later, my synbiotic preparations would be in use everywhere. Sadly, not – bureaucracy is a big problem and a lot of permits are required.

‘As the grass grows, the cow dies’

Rayes N et al. Am J Transplant 2005;5:125-131


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