Safety and efficacy of Lactobacillus for preventing necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants

Int J Surg. 2020 Apr:76:79-87. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2020.02.031. Epub 2020 Feb 26.


Aim: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of Lactobacillus for preventing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants.

Methods: We searched the Cochrane Library, PubMed, EMBASE, and Web of Science databases from inception to September 2019. Risk ratios (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated to compare outcomes. We also performed a subgroup analysis of the incidence of NEC. Moreover, a sensitivity analysis was performed to examine the stability of the results. A Begg funnel plot was generated to detect publication bias. Two reviewers assessed trial quality and extracted data independently. This work has been reported in line with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses statement and the Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews guidelines. Statistical analysis was performed using standard procedures in Review Manager 5.2 software.

Results: Twenty-three randomized, placebo-controlled studies (N = 4686 participants) were included in this analysis. Comparing the Lactobacillus and control groups, a significant reduction was found in the incidence of NEC (RR 0.34, 95% CI 0.25-0.46; P < 0.00001) and death (RR 0.48, 95% CI 0.36-0.64; P < 0.00001). No significant difference in the incidence of sepsis was found between the Lactobacillus and placebo groups (RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.72-1.12; P = 0.34).

Conclusions: Lactobacillus is safe and can prevent necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.

Keywords: Lactobacillus; Necrotizing enterocolitis; Preterm infants.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

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