Background: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is one of the most destructive diseases associated with conditions of neonatal prematurity. Supplementation with enteral prebiotics may reduce the incidence of NEC, especially in infants who fed exclusively with breast-milk. Therefore, we compared the efficacy and safety of enteral supplementation of a prebiotic mixture (short chain galacto-oligosaccharides/long chain fructo-oligosaccharides [SCGOS/LCFOS]) versus no intervention on incidence of NEC in preterm infants.
Methods: In a single-center randomized control trial 75 preterm infants (birth weight [BW] ≤1500 g, gestational age ≤34 weeks and were not fed with formula) on 30 ml/kg/day volume of breast-milk were randomly allocated to have enteral supplementation with a prebiotic mixture (SCGOS/LCFOS; 9:1) or not receive any prebiotic. The incidence of suspected NEC, feeding intolerance, time to full enteral feeds, duration of hospitalization were investigated.
Results: Differences in demographic characteristics were not statistically important. SCGOS/LCFOS mixture significantly reduced the incidence of suspected NEC, (1 [4.0%] vs. 11 [22.0%]; hazard ratio: 0.49 [95% confidence interval: 0.29-0.84]; P = 0.002), and time to full enteral feeds (11 [7-21] vs. 14 [8-36] days; P - 0.02]. Also duration of hospitalization was meaningfully shorter in the prebiotic group (16 [9-45] vs. 25 [11-80]; P - 0.004]. Prebiotic oligosaccharides were well tolerated by very low BW (VLBW) infants.
Conclusions: Enteral supplementation with prebiotic significantly reduced the incidence of NEC in VLBW infants who were fed exclusively breast-milk. This finding suggests that it might have been the complete removal of formula which caused a synergistic effect between nonhuman neutral oligosaccharides (prebiotic) and human oligosaccharides.
Keywords: Exclusive breast feeding; necrotizing enterocolitis; oligosaccharides; prebiotic; preterm neonates.