Background: It has been suggested that probiotics can reduce the overgrowth of pathogens in the bowels of preterm infants and contribute to the reduction of the incidence of nosocomial infections in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of Lactobacillus GG supplementation in reducing the incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs), bacterial sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants.
Methods: A double-blind study was conducted in 12 Italian NICUs. Newborn infants with a gestational age <33 weeks or birthweight <1,500 g were randomized to receive standard milk feed supplemented with Lactobacillus GG (Dicoflor), Dicofarm, Rome, Italy) in a dose of 6 x 10(9) colony-forming units (cfu) once a day until discharge, starting with the first feed or placebo.
Results: Five hundred eighty-five patients were studied. The probiotics group (n = 295) and the placebo group (n = 290) exhibited similar clinical characteristics. The duration of Lactobacillus GG and placebo supplementation was 47.3 +/- 26.0 and 48.2 +/- 24.3 days, respectively. Although UTIs (3.4 vs. 5.8%) and NEC (1.4 vs. 2.7%) were found less frequently in the probiotic group compared to the control group, these differences were not significant. Bacterial sepsis was more frequent in the probiotics group (4.4%, n = 11) than in the placebo group (3.8%, n = 9), but the difference was not significant.
Conclusion: Seven days of Lactobacillus GG supplementation starting with the first feed is not effective in reducing the incidence of UTIs, NEC and sepsis in preterm infants. Further studies are required to confirm our results in lower birthweight populations.
Copyright 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel