Probiotics can reduce bowel problem in premature babies: Study

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Probiotics can reduce bowel problem in premature babies

Related tags: Childbirth, Preterm birth, Gut flora

A 3-strain probiotic blend can reduce the occurrence of a bowel condition common among  premature babies, researchers writing in Pediatrics journal have found.

The researchers, drawn from a variety of research institutions and universities, said the blend reduced the bowel complication, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), but showed no clear effect on late-onset sepsis, a blood infection that typically affects premature infants younger than 90 days old.

The multicenter, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomised trial compared daily use of Bifidobacterium infantis, Streptococcus thermophilus,​ and Bifidobacterium lactis ​with placebo among infants born before 32 weeks and weighing less than 1.5kg.

The study analysed 1099 babies selected between October 2007 and November 2011 in Australia and New Zealand.

“The probiotics B infantis, S thermophilus, and B lactis significantly reduced NEC of Bell stage 2 or more in very preterm infants, but not definite late-onset sepsis or mortality."

"Although this probiotic combination did not affect all-cause mortality, it appears to be safe, cheap, and readily implemented. These results may assist neonatal units considering using probiotics for very preterm infants. Probiotics may be of greatest value globally in neonatal settings with high rates of NEC, mortality, and late-onset sepsis."​ the researchers concluded.

However they noted the absolute reduction in NEC was only 2.4%.

Christian Barker, executive VP in the Health & Nutrition Division at Chr Hansen, the Danish supplier of the probiotics in question, welcomed the study.

“We have a strong focus on infant health and support research initiatives that will enable us to make continuous advancements. The study findings are remarkable. From a commercial point of view, however, NEC is a small area compared to other indications such as functional bowel disorders and diarrhea."



Vol. 132 No. 6, December 1, 2013, pp. 1055 -1062 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-1339)

‘Probiotic Effects on Late-onset Sepsis in Very Preterm Infants: A Randomized Controlled Trial’

Authors: Susan E. Jacobs, MD et al…

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