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Probiotics for Preterm Infants: A Premature or Overdue Necrotizing Enterocolitis Prevention Strategy?

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Common among preterm, very low birth weight (VLBW) and extremely low birth weight (ELBW) infants, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a gastrointestinal, infectious disease that remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among this high-risk population. To combat this devastating condition, research efforts have been redirected from treatment toward prevention strategies. Although there are several proposed risk-reduction strategies, one intervention gaining support is the administration of prophylactic enteral probiotics. Regardless of growing evidentiary support and a benign safety profile, neonatal providers have yet to embrace this therapy. This article provides an overview of the proposed benefits of probiotics, focusing on their role as a NEC prevention strategy. A review of several sentinel research studies targeting preterm, VLBW, and ELBW infants is provided. Considerations for ongoing research are reviewed. Finally, two evidence-based NEC prevention probiotics protocols are presented.
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Keywords: EXTREMELY LOW BIRTH WEIGHT INFANTS; NECROTIZING ENTEROCOLITIS; PREMATURE; PROBIOTICS; VERY LOW BIRTH WEIGHT INFANTS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2015

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