There have been a number of successful trials with VSL3 for colitis treatment.
Thirty four patients with active ulcerative colitis were given VSL#3 (3,600 billion bacteria daily in 2 divided doses for 6 weeks) with a remission/response rate of 77%, with 9% no response, 9% worse, and 5% not completing.1
Interestingly, this study mentions that it was established that at least some of the bacterial species incorporated in the probiotic reached the "target site" in amounts that could be detected. In another 2006 study, it was found that VSL3 "increased the total number of intestinal bacteria cells as well as the richness and diversity of the bacterial microbiota, especially the anaerobic flora."
At the end of this trial, the people had all sorts of good bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genus that WERE NOT in the VSL3 supplement. This seems a most encouraging sign that it had "normalized" the intestinal tract and that the colitis treatment was a success.2
From amongst the ulcerative colitis remedies, low dose balsalazide combined with VSL-3 also appeared to do well in trials. There were 30 people in each of 3 groups of this 8 week trial. Dosage was balsalazide (2.25g/day) and VSL#3 (3g/day) being compared against a medium dose balsalazide and mesalazine. The low dose balsalazide/VSL-3 achieved 24 people in remission, the medium dose balsalazide had 21, with 16 in the mesalazine group in remission.
The balsalazide whether alone or in tandem was better tolerated than the mesalazine. Two people from the latter group were withdrawn from the study because of severe side-effects.3
It is believed that within the human gut there are something like 100 trillion microorganisms from 36,000 different species of bacteria. That is a lot of bacteria.
It is believed (proven in animal studies) that VSL3 reduces the number and diversity of bacteria within the intestinal tract whilst at the same time NOT reducing the number or diversity that are clinging to to the intestinal walls4.
These two groups of bacteria - the ones clinging to the mucus membranes of the intestinal tract and the ones that live within the cavity of the tract - are know to keep distinct communites - they cluster seperately.
Scientist believe that regularly taking a probiotic such as VSL3 can alter specific communities of bacteria within the intestinal tract and that this can be beneficial for colitis treatment.
(Note that ulcerative colitis is sometimes incorrectly spelt as ulcertive colitis and ulceritive colitis.)
1. Bibiloni R, Fedorak RN, Tannock GW, Madsen KL, Gionchetti P, Campieri M, De Simone C, Sartor RB. VSL#3 probiotic-mixture induces remission in patients with active ulcerative colitis. American Journal of Gastroenterology 2005 Ju;100(7):1539-46
2. T Kühbacher, S J Ott, U Helwig, T Mimura, F Rizzello, B Kleessen, P Gionchetti, M Blaut, M Campieri, U R Fölsch, M A Kamm, S Schreiber. Bacterial and fungal microbiota in relation to probiotic therapy (VSL#3) in pouchitis. Gut 2006;55:833-841
3. Tursi A, Brandimarte G, Giorgetti GM, Fortis G, Modeo ME, Gigliobianco A. Low-dose balsalazide plus a high-potency probiotic preparation is more effective than balsalazide alone or mesalazine in the treatment of acute mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis. Med Sci Monit, 10(11):Pl126-31 2004
4. Joshua M. Uronis, Janelle C. Arthur, Temitope Keku, Anthony Fodor, Ian M. Carroll, Myrella L. Cruz, Caroline B. Appleyard, and Christian Jobin. Gut Microbial Diversity is Reduced by the Probiotic VSL#3 and Correlates with Decreased TNBS-Induced Colitis. nflamm Bowel Dis. 2011 January; 17(1): 289–297. doi: 10.1002/ibd.21366