All probiotics not same in protecting premature infants from common, life-threatening illness.
Treating premature infants with probiotics, the dietary supplements containing live bacteria that many adults take to help maintain their natural intestinal balance, may be effective for preventing a common and life-threatening bowel disease among premature infants, researchers at UC Davis Children’s Hospital have found.
The study, “A comparison of two probiotic strains of bifidobacteria in premature infants,” was recently published online in the Journal of Pediatrics. The bowel disease, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), is the second most common cause of death among premature infants, said Mark Underwood, lead study author, neonatologist and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. It affects 3 to 10 percent of premature infants; about 25 percent of those with the severe form of NEC succumb to the infection.
Underwood and his collaborators evaluated the effectiveness and safety of two types of probiotics of known purity and composition in a clinical trial that included nine breastmilk- and 12 formula-fed premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.
The products tested in the study were two genetically different strains of bifidobacteria, normal inhabitants of the gastroentestinal tract that inhibit the growth of harmful pathogens and bacteria: Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis (B. infantis) and Bifidobacterium animalis lactis (B. lactis).
Laboratory analysis of bacteria of fecal samples from the infants found that B. infantis was more effective at colonizing bifidobacteria, the healthy bacteria, in the newborns’ gastrointestinal tracts than B.lactis. The highest fecal levels of bifidobacteria were found in the infants who were breastmilk-fed and received the B. infantis probiotic, Underwood said.