Probiotic supplementation may reduce morbidity in premature infants

A study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics, funded by Evolve Biosystems, found B.infantis supplementation offered several benefits to preterm babies

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Orange County, the University of Nebraska Lincoln and the University of Nevada have published the results of a study measuring the impact of Bifidobacterium infantis supplementation on preterm infants. The study found probiotic supplementation was associated with greater capacity for the utilisation of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), in additional to fewer antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) and reduced enteric (small intestine) inflammation.

Recent research demonstrated that supplementation with Bidifobacterium and Lactobacillus has the capability to remodel the gut microbiome of a preterm infant, creating an environment more closely associated with a full term infant. Additionally, evidence has indicated supplementation with B. infantis can precipitate a significant decrease in morbidity and mortality in preterm infants.

In this study, the researchers collected faecal samples from 77 preterm infants and compared gut microbial composition and enteric inflammation profiles between one cohort receiving B. infantis supplementation and one not. Analysis of the samples revealed that the babies fed probiotics developed a distinct gut microbiome which included a high relative abundance of Bifidobacteriaceae.

The supplemented infants displayed an increase in functions necessary to metabolise HMOs, which confers the ability to absorb more nutrients from the human milk in their diet. They also displayed an 80.6% lower mean burden of ARGs. Anti-biotic resistant bacteria is “of particular concern in clinical practice” the researchers note, and ARGs acquired during a hospital stay, or nosocomially, are especially problematic for preterm infants who necessitate a longer period of hospital care. They can negatively impact infant growth and development and increase the risk of serious infection and death.

Additionally, the researchers found a significant reduction in proinflammatory cytokine production in the supplemented infants, as well as lower levels of pathogenic bacteria including Escherichia and Staphylococcus epidermidis, known to cause enteric inflammation.

The researchers concluded that B. infantis supplementation can be considered a “meaningful and low risk approach to alter the gut microbiome,” and that it has a combined effect of increasing the benefits associated with human milk, diminishing enteric inflammation and reducing the rate of antibiotic-resistant bacteria acquisition in preterm infants. They suggest that in concert with human milk feeding, probiotic supplementation could help mitigate the risk of mortality in hospitalised infants.

The full article can be read here.