Development of complementary and alternative medicine approaches to liver disease is a priority area at NCCAM. Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) is a significant complication of cirrhosis which can result in poor quality of life, impaired cognition and difficulty in driving motor vehicles with a high traffic accident risk. MHE is estimated to affect one half of the 5.5 million cirrhotics in the U.S. Despite these negative outcomes, there is no consensus on treatment of MHE. Currently available therapies for MHE act on intestinal flora but are limited by adverse effects (i.e. lactulose-induced diarrhea), which negatively impact adherence. Probiotic bacterial supplements, which also act on intestinal flora, are an emerging therapy for MHE. Our group has performed a pilot, randomized trial which demonstrated a significantly higher rate of MHE reversal with excellent adherence in patients randomized to probiotic yogurt compared to no therapy. This proposal intends to define Lactobacillus GG (LGG) as a biologically-based alternative therapy for MHE with special focus on metabolic and stool bacteriologic changes. The hypothesis of this Phase I proposal is: LGG will be safe and efficacious for the treatment of minimal hepatic encephalopathy compared to placebo in a randomized, double-blind trial. This will be carried out with four specific aims.
Specific aim 1 : To define the safety and tolerability of LGG in patients with minimal hepatic encephalopathy against placebo in a Phase I randomized controlled trial.
Specific aim 2 : To define the effect of LGG on intestinal microflora composition in cirrhotics with minimal hepatic encephalopathy using 16s stool DNA sequencing in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Specific aim 3 : To determine the effect of LGG on metabolic biomarkers and cytokines in stool, urine and blood using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in minimal hepatic encephalopathy.
Specific aim 4 : To determine the effect of LGG on psychometric function in patients with minimal hepatic encephalopathy.
The specific aim and sub-aims will be tested in 40 patients with non-alcoholic cirrhosis and MHE: 20 randomized to LGG and 20 randomized to placebo to be taken BID for 8 weeks with detailed psychometric, metabolic, anthropometric and bacteriologic evaluation. Results generated from this study will form the basis for a RO1 proposal to develop the use of probiotics as a biologically-based alternative treatment with long-term outcomes of prognosis, development of overt encephalopathy and prevention of traffic accidents in patients with MHE.
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