Probiotic administration can prevent necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants: A meta-analysis

J Pediatr Surg. 2015 Aug;50(8):1405-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2015.05.008. Epub 2015 May 27.


Purpose: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most common gastrointestinal emergency in preterm infants, affecting ~6-7% of very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants. Early intervention and aggressive treatment has improved clinical outcomes, but considerable morbidity continues to accrue to NEC survivors. This meta-analysis examines the impact of probiotics on the incidence of NEC and complications among VLBW infants.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search for all published randomized control trials (RCTs) assessing the use of probiotics to prevent NEC in VLBW infants was conducted using PubMed, Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials, and Google Scholar (1966-2014). The incidences of NEC, sepsis, overall mortality, and time to reach full enteral feeds were analyzed.

Results: 20 RCTs involving 5982 preterm VLBW infants were analyzed. Risk of NEC was reduced by 49.1% (RR=0.509; 95% CI, 0.385-0.672; p<0.001), and overall mortality by 26.9% among infants receiving probiotics (RR=0.731; 95% CI, 0.577-0.926; p=0.009). An 8.1% reduction in sepsis was also observed in infants receiving probiotics (RR=0.919; 95% CI, 0.823-1.027; p=0.137). Time to reach full enteral feeds was reduced by 1.2 days among infants receiving probiotics (MD: -1.217; 95% CI, -2.151 to -0.283; p=0.011).

Conclusion: The use of probiotic supplementation in preterm VLBW infants is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of NEC and overall mortality. Additional studies are required to determine the optimal genus, species, and dose of probiotic.

Keywords: Necrotizing enterocolitis; Preterm; Probiotics.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / mortality
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / mortality
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome