With their promise to rid the body of the "bad bacteria" that make us ill, it's no wonder so many of us are buying probiotic dietary supplements.
Two million Britons now regularly consume these "friendly" bacteria in the form of drinks, yoghurts, powders and capsules. "Friendly bacteria" sound so harmless. So what then are we to make of the story last week that patients with pancreatic disease had died as a result of being given them?
Doctors at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, Holland, reported that 24 out of 296 patients died during a study to find out whether friendly bacteria - known as probiotics - affected inflammation of the pancreas.
The researchers said their results were proof that "extremely ill" people should avoid probiotics, and the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority has ruled that supplements should not be given to patients in intensive care, those with organ failure or anyone being fed through a drip.
So should we be concerned about the new findings?
In fact, when it comes to seriously ill patients, many UK hospitals already follow the approach being adopted by the Dutch, says Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's Hospital in London.
In unhealthy people with weakened immunity the so-called friendly bacteria, such as lactobacillus casei or bifidobacteria, which make up probiotics, are treated as hostile invaders.
Source - Daily Mail