Objective: To test the efficacy of probiotic and prebiotic, alone or combined (synbiotic), on the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants.
Study design: A prospective, randomized, controlled trial was conducted at 5 neonatal intensive care units in Turkey. VLBW infants (n = 400) were assigned to a control group and 3 study groups that were given probiotic (Bifidobacterium lactis), prebiotic (inulin), or synbiotic (Bifidobacterium lactis plus inulin) added to breastmilk or formula for a maximum of 8 weeks before discharge or death. The primary outcome was NEC (Bell stage ≥2).
Results: The rate of NEC was lower in probiotic (2.0%) and synbiotic (4.0%) groups compared with prebiotic (12.0%) and placebo (18.0%) groups (P < .001). The times to reach full enteral feeding were faster (P < .001), the rates of clinical nosocomial sepsis were lower (P = .004), stays in the neonatal intensive care unit were shorter, (P = .002), and mortality rates were lower (P = .003) for infants receiving probiotics, prebiotics, or synbiotic than controls. The use of antenatal steroid (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3-0.9) and postnatal probiotic (alone or in synbiotic) (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.2-0.8) decreased the risk of NEC, and maternal antibiotic exposure increased this risk (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1-3.6).
Conclusions: In VLBW infants, probiotic (Bifidobacterium lactis) and synbiotic (Bifidobacterium lactis plus inulin) but not prebiotic (inulin) alone decrease NEC.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01807858.
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