Probiotic Supplementation and Late-Onset Sepsis in Preterm Infants: A Meta-analysis

Pediatrics. 2016 Mar;137(3):e20153684. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-3684. Epub 2016 Feb 12.


Context: Late-onset sepsis (LOS) is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in preterm infants. Despite various preventive measures, its incidence continues to remain high, hence the urgent need for additional approaches. One such potential strategy is supplementation with probiotics. The updated Cochrane Review (2014) did not find benefits of probiotics in reducing the risk of LOS in preterm infants (19 studies, N = 5338). Currently there are >30 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of probiotics in preterm infants that have reported on LOS.

Objectives: To conduct a systematic review including all relevant RCTs.

Data sources: PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and E-abstracts from the Pediatric Academic Society meetings and other pediatric and neonatal conference proceedings were searched in June and August 2015.

Study selection: RCTs comparing probiotics versus placebo/no probiotic were included.

Data extraction: Relevant data were extracted independently by 3 reviewers.

Results: Pooled results from 37 RCTs (N = 9416) using fixed effects model meta analysis showed that probiotics significantly decreased the risk of LOS (675/4852 [13.9%] vs 744/4564 [16.3%]; relative risk, 0.86; 95% confidence interval, 0.78-0.94; P = .0007; I(2) = 35%; number needed to treat, 44). The results were significant even after excluding studies with high risk of bias.

Conclusions: Probiotic supplementation reduces the risk of LOS in preterm infants.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Sepsis / prevention & control*