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A recent study by three medical centers, in collaboration with Vermont Oxford Network revealed that when extremely low birth weight infants (ELBW) were giving feedings supplemented with probiotics, the infants gained better weight. Though probiotics are considered to be healthy, live organism supplements providing benefits, the safety and efficacy of probiotic supplementation in ELBW infants has not been explored thoroughly. The study authors investigated the effects of probiotics on digestive health and immune function.

Mohamad Al-Hosni, MD, and colleagues during the course of the analysis the effect of supplementing enteral (tube) feedings with probiotics in extremely premature infants who weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces or less was evaluated. They assumed that the infants provided with supplements including probiotics would seemingly tolerate larger volumes of feeding per day. Also when compared to the control group they could apparently grow faster and required fewer days of antimicrobial treatment.

To conduct the experiment fifty infants were given 500 million colony-forming units (CFU) of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. They were also feed with 500 million CFU of Bifidobacterium infantis once a day. This was continued until discharge or 34 weeks of postmenstrual age. On the contrary, fifty-one infants were given feedings that excluded probiotics.

The outcome apparently revealed that the infants who received probiotics gained superior weight. This increase in weight occurred even when the average daily volume of their feedings was less than infants in the control group. However, no statistics display compelling differences in other complications of prematurity such as sepsis or necrotizing enterocolitis. Dr. Al-Hosni, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in the division of neonatal-perinatal medicine at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center claimed that no side-effects are monitored as a result of probiotic supplementation.

He commented, “These findings strongly suggest that probiotic supplementation to enteral feedings plays a major role in feeding tolerance and nutrient absorption. The improved tolerance of feedings and nutrient absorption lead to better weight gain in this extremely premature infant group.”

However, it should be understood that larger clinical trials need to authenticate the safety and efficiency of the same.

This study was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.