Premature infants given a daily dose of a probiotic blend were protected against the more severe forms of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a potentially deadly inflammatory disease, according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics. NEC is the most common gastrointestinal emergency in premature infants. It involves damage to the intestinal lining that ranges from surface damage all the way to complete perforations of the intestinal wall. NEC affects 10 percent of infants born less than 1.5 kg (3.3 lb). At least 50 percent of those infants do not survive.
In the probiotic study, infants born before 32 weeks and weighing less than 1.5 kg were given either a probiotic containing Bifidobacterium infantis, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Bifidobacterium lactis or a placebo daily. Those infants taking the probiotic combination were more protected against the development of more severe NEC when compared to those infants receiving the placebo. There were no differences in the outcomes for sepsis (blood infection) or rates of death, however. Treatment with the probiotic in this susceptible population appears to be safe, the researchers found.
“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,” they stated. NEC is a serious disease that is treated in hospitals. It is my hope that more studies will be done to advance the science so that probiotic treatment can be widely available and play a helpful role in this devastating condition.