Recent research has found that, contrary to previous studies, probiotics – good bacteria found in certain food – may not shield premature babies from serious illnesses and complications.
Published in the journal The Lancet, the study was conducted by researchers from the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in the Queen Mary University of London located in the U.K.
It was previously reported by a study that the probiotic Bifidobacterium breve can protect babies born before their 9-month due date from certain diseases and even death. The researchers challenged their assumptions on serious complications such as a bowel condition called Necrotizing enterocolitis and sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection.
The study involved 1,300 preterm infants, each given either the probiotic Bifidobacterium breve or a placebo.
Results showed that there was a very minimal difference between the babies that were given the bacteria and those given the placebo. Sepsis affected 12% of those in the placebo group and 11% of those in the probiotic group.
The 1% difference was also observed for those affected by Necrotizing enterocolitis being 10% for the placebo group and 9% for the probiotic group. This was again noticed for those who passed away before being discharged from the hospital being 9% for the placebo group and 8% for the probiotic group.
“These two large trials suggest that, while probiotics are generally safe in the short term, they are not universally effective, and that different strains and combinations should be investigated separately,” said the researchers in a news release.
“The evidence from this trial does not support the routine administration of probiotics to the preterm infant,” they concluded.
It’s not only serious complications that keep preemies in the hospital. According to Dr. John Ong, pediatric intensivist at the UST Hospital, the most common reasons why preemies aren’t allowed by their doctors to come home are:
Underdeveloped lungs – preemies with underdeveloped lungs need to be hooked to a ventilator until their lungs are mature enough to properly function on their own
Inability to regulate body temperature – preemies lack the fat needed to regulate their temperature. They need to be placed in an incubator to prevent hypothermia
Premature digestive systems – gradual feeding is required for preemies with underdeveloped intestines lest their insides become perforated
Source: Nov. 25, 2015. "Probiotics May Not Shield 'Preemies' From Serious Illness, Study Finds". healthday.com Undated. "Probiotics May Not Protect Preemies from Serious Illness, Study Says". parents.com