Background: It is known that the bifidobacteria flora play important roles in mucosal host defense and can prevent infectious diseases. Because bacterial populations develop during the first day of life, the authors examined whether the early administration of bifidobacteria has a positive effect on the health of low birth weight infants.
Methods: The effects of oral administration of Bifidobacterium breve (B. breve) supplements were studied in a controlled trial with low birth weight infants (average birth weight 1489 g). The infants were divided into three groups: Group A and B received a dose of 1.6 x 10(8) cells of B. breve supplement twice a day, commencing either from several hours after birth (group A) or 24 h after birth (group B). Group C, the control group, received no supplement.
Results: There were no significant differences in birth weight, treatment with antibiotics, and the starting time of breast-feeding among the three groups. A Bifidobacterium-predominant flora was formed at an average of 2 weeks after birth in group A and at an average of 4 weeks after birth in group B, while no Bifidobacterium was isolated in eight out of 10 infants in group C during the observation period of 7 weeks. In comparison between group A and B, Bifidobacterium was detected significantly earlier in group A, and the number of Enterobacteriaceae present in the infants at 2 weeks after birth was significantly lower in group A.
Conclusion: The results of the present study suggest that very early administration of B. breve to low birth weight infants is useful in promoting the colonization of the Bifidobacterium and the formation of a normal intestinal flora.