Preterm Infants with Increased Infections Following Acid Suppression Therapy

A recent study (P Manzoni et al. J Pediatr 2018; 193: 62-7) provide more data on the detrimental effects of gastric acid inhibitors (eg. proton pump inhibitors, histamine-2 receptor antagonists).  This study was a secondary analysis using prospectively collected data from 235 preterm very low birth weight infants. Key findings:

  • “After multivariate analysis, exposure to inhibitors of gastric acidity remained significantly and independently associated with LOS [late-onset sepsis] (OR 1.03); each day of inhibitors of gastric acidity exposure conferred an additional 3.7% odds of developing LOS.”
  • Acid suppression therapy was associated with gram-negative (P<.001) and fungal pathogens (P=.001)
  • The study showed an association between acid blockers and with necrotizing enterocolitis, which was mitigated in those who received bovine lactoferrin

My take (borrowed, in part, from authors): This data “confirm, strengthen, and expand on previous reports describing an association between inhibitors of gastric acidity and infections.”  Thus, the risks of these medications is likely greater than the benefits in the majority of preterm infants.

Related blog posts:

Bright Angel Trail

Acid Suppression/C difficile and Adrenal Suppression/Topical Steroids

Briefly noted:

J Jimenez et al. (JPGN 2015; 61: 208-11) provide more data that gastric acid suppression is associated with an increase risk of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). This was a retrospective case-control study with 138 children with CDI and 276 controls. After adjustment, acid-suppression therapy had a 1.8 Odds Ratio association with CDI.

S Harel et al. (JPGN 2015; 61: 190-3) in this retrospective ‘pilot’ study of  patients receiving topical budesonide for eosinophilic esophagitis, 6 of 14 (43%) had mild biochemical evidence of adrenal suppression, as measured by ACTH testing. Bottomline: a prospective study is likely needed to confirm or refute these findings. In the meanwhile, stress steroid coverage could be considered in patients on prolonged budesonide.

How Histamine-2 Receptor Blockers May Cause Problems for Preemies

Previously, this blog has noted an association between ranitidine usage and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) (see below).  Now, another study provides insight into a potential mechanism (JPGN 2013; 56: 397-400).

This study examined the fecal microbiota in 76 premature infants who were enrolled in a case-controlled, cross-sectional study.  25 infants receiving H2-blockers were compared with 51 matched controls.

Results: microbial diversity was lower, relative abundance of Proteobacteria was increased, and Firmicutes was decreased in the stools of infants receiving H2-blockers.

While this study did not specifically examine the effect of H-2 blockers on NEC (no infants in this study had NEC), there are multiple reasons why the findings should be a cause for concern.

  • Gastric acidity acts as a natural defense against bacterial growth and H-2 blockers (as well as proton pump inhibitors) inhibit this defense
  • Previous studies have shown an association between NEC and with diminished microbial diversity/increased Proteobacteria.  Proteobacteria include well-known pathogens like Klebsiella, Shigella, Escherichia coli, and Citrobacter.

Related blog entries: