A new study shows that Lactobaccilus reuteri, a probiotic, protects prematurely born infants against infections caused by bacteria and yeasts.
Hospital stay for the infants was reduced to almost half compared to the control group. The duration was three weeks compared to six weeks.
Prematurely born infants are at risk of infection. In neonatal intensive care wards, this can affect 25-40% of infants. Yeasts, mainly Candida, are responsible for 10% of these infections and represent a serious health threat to the infant.
The researchers wished to evaluate whether daily use of probiotics could influence the incidence of these kinds of infections.
The research study
In total, 184 premature infants who were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit immediately after delivery, were included in the study.
The children were randomly allocated to one of three groups: 67 infants received drops containing Lactobacillus reuteri (L.reuteri), 55 infants received Lactobacilus rhamnosus GG (LGG), i.e. another probiotic, and 62 infants only received the normal treatment (control group).
In both the groups that received daily probiotics, the risk of infection by yeast (Candida) was reduced. In the control group, 6,4% of the infants had infections compared to 1,4% in the L.reuteri group and 3,6% in the LGG group.
The incidence of bacterial infections was also reduced in the probiotic groups compared to the control group: 1,4% in the L.reuteri group, 3,6% in the LGG group and 9,6% in the control group. For both types of infections the differences between the probiotic groups and the control group were statistically significant.
Further health effects
Only the L.reuteri group displayed further effects such as weaning from intravenous nutrition ("drop") to normal feeding, which occurred earlier. In addition, markedly fewer infants were affected by gastro-intestinal problems.
Gastro-intestinal symptoms were observed in two of 67 infants that were given L.reuteri compared to 14 of 55 in the LGG group and 27 of 62 in the control group.
The investigators' conclusions from the study were that both probiotics could prevent both bacterial and yeast infections.
The L.reuteri group also had further effects such as reduced occurrence of gastro-intestinal symptoms, earlier tolerance of food by mouth (intravenous nutrition could be stopped earlier), reduced weight loss during the first week of life, better growth during the first month of life and fewer days of hospitalisation.
The study was performed by Drs Romeo and Betta from the Department of Neonatal Intensive Care, Catania Univeristy Hospital in Italy. They presented their study at the 12th National Congress of the Italian Society for Neonatology. - (Thebe Pharmaceuticals, September 2006)
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