Necrotizing enterocolitis: a multifactorial disease with no cure

World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Apr 14;14(14):2142-61. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.2142.


Necrotizing enterocolitis is an inflammatory bowel disease of neonates with significant morbidity and mortality in preterm infants. Due to the multifactorial nature of the disease and limitations in disease models, early diagnosis remains challenging and the pathogenesis elusive. Although preterm birth, hypoxic-ischemic events, formula feeding, and abnormal bacteria colonization are established risk factors, the role of genetics and vasoactive/inflammatory mediators is unclear. Consequently, treatments do not target the specific underlying disease processes and are symptomatic and surgically invasive. Breast-feeding is the most effective preventative measure. Recent advances in the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis have focused on bioactive nutrients and trophic factors in human milk. Development of new disease models including the aspect of prematurity that consistently predisposes neonates to the disease with multiple risk factors will improve our understanding of the pathogenesis and lead to discovery of innovative therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eicosanoids / metabolism
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / diagnosis*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / therapy*
  • Gastroenterology / methods*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammation
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Ischemia / pathology
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Eicosanoids
  • Reactive Oxygen Species