Latest News » Probiotics may fight digestion issues in premature babies

One in every eight babies is born premature.

According to the CDC, one out of every eight babies born in the United States each year are premature. Babies continue to develop throughout the nine months in the whom, so infants that are born three weeks prior to their due dates – or sooner – can face a number of health risks that range in severity depending on how early they are born.

One serious medical issue that can occur as a result of a premature birth is a digestive disorder known as necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. reports that NEC is the most common gatrointestinal disease seen in preterm births, and, though it only affects 1 to 5 percent of these infants, its potentially devastating effects make even that slim figure a daunting one. NEC can cause the destruction of the bowels, and, in extreme cases, may lead to death.

However, researchers from Piedmont Neonatology in Greensboro, North Carolina, have recently discovered that probiotic supplements may be able prevent premature newborns from contracting this disorder. NutraIngredients-USA states that the researchers administered a probiotic called Lactobacillus reuteri to a group of preterm babies that weighed less than 1000 grams at birth.

The source reports that infants who received the probiotic supplement were significantly less likely to develop NEC than those who were not given it. The researchers found that only 2.5 percent of the premies who took the supplement – all of whom were considered high-risk for NEC – developed the condition. Meanwhile, 15 percent of the babies who had a placebo supplement were eventually diagnosed with NEC.

The scientists described the results as "encouraging," according to the nutritional news outlet, and said it would like fuel further research into combating health problems that can threaten the lives of babies born before full-term.

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