In an article published by Nature Pediatric Research, researchers investigated the effectiveness of the bacteria Bifidobacterious longum subsp. infantis as a probiotic used to decrease the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC, as we have discussed previously in this blog, is a type of bacterial infection in premature babies, which can often be fatal. To study the effectiveness of B. infantis, researchers assigned 50 rat pups into three groups, which were delivered one day premature of term, to be fed by their mothers, fed with formula, or fed with formula supplemented with B. infantis. The pups were also exposed to hypoxia and cold stress. Intestinal tissue was tested for response.
The results of this experiment reinforced the importance of maternal milk, and showed the importance of a probiotic, B. infantis, if formula must be used. None of the mother fed mice were diagnosed with NEC, while ~80% of formula fed pups were. By supplementing the probiotic though, less than 40% of the rat pups were diagnosed with NEC, and the severity of NEC was lower in these instances. Results also suggested that the probiotic decreased the inflammatory immune response of the underdeveloped intestinal mucus layer. The second part of the experiment, involving putting stress on the rat to observe responses, resulted in data that was inconclusive but suggested that stresses such as hypoxia and cold may not significantly alter the microbiome of the intestines.
While the results of the above experiment did not conclude whether outside stress effects the response of the microbiome in premature rat pups, they still show that certain bacteria such as B. infantis can be useful as a probiotic in preventing NEC.