Probiotics Lower Risk of Sepsis in Newborns

Summary of recent study from NPR: Probiotic Bacteria Can Protect Newborns from Deadly Infections

Previous studies have shown that probiotics lower the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants.  Now, a study (full text link below) from India examines whether probiotics could lower other infections.

An excerpt:

Feeding babies the microbes dramatically reduces the risk newborns will develop sepsis, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Sepsis is a top killer of newborns worldwide. Each year more than 600,000 babies die of the blood infections, which can strike very quickly…

Babies who ate the microbes [Lactobacillus plantarum] for a week — along with some sugars to feed the microbes — had a dramatic reduction in their risk of death and sepsis. They dropped by 40 percent, from 9 percent to 5.4 percent.

But that’s not all. The probiotic also warded off several other types of infections, including those in the lungs. Respiratory infections dropped by about 30 percent…

The only significant side effect seen in the study was abdominal distension, which occurred in six babies. But there were more cases reported in the placebo group than in the group that got the probiotic.

Full text link (thanks to Kipp Ellsworth’s twitter feed for this link): A randomized synbiotic trial to prevent sepsis in newborns in rural India. P Panigrahi et al.

My take: Whether probiotics would be useful broadly in full-term infants in developed countries is uncertain –more studies are needed.

Related blog posts: