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Probiotics for prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis and sepsis in preterm infants

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Nicholas EmbletonORCiD, Dr Stefan Zalewski, Dr Janet Berrington


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Purpose of reviewFew areas in neonatal medicine have generated as much discussion and controversy as the use of prophylactic probiotics for the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis. We summarize recent studies from the last 1-2 years.Recent findingsSystematic reviews show that probiotics reduce the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis but there are methodological limitations to all the published trials, and the largest trial to date is at odds with the conclusions of the meta-analyses. Trials have used a range of commercially available products with differing species, and administered these at different times to heterogeneous populations of preterm babies. Although there is strong evidence to show that 'probiotics' are likely to represent a major advance for neonatal care, it is increasingly clear that not all species have beneficial effects in preterm infants. This makes interpretation of meta-analyses complex, and the determination of a single 'risk reduction' potentially flawed.SummaryDespite current uncertainties, it is difficult for clinicians to ignore the current data, and increasing numbers now use commercially available products. It remains a matter of concern that many products lack the robust quality control most clinicians and parents would consider important for use in vulnerable populations. Head-to-head trials are needed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Embleton ND, Zalewski S, Berrington JE

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases

Year: 2016

Volume: 29

Issue: 3

Pages: 256-261

Print publication date: 01/06/2016

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

ISSN (print): 0951-7375

ISSN (electronic): 1473-6527



DOI: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000269