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Semin Perinatol. 2008 Apr;32(2):127-37. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2008.01.006.

Probiotics: role in pathophysiology and prevention in necrotizing enterocolitis.

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Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an inflammatory bowel disease largely affecting low birth weight, premature infants. Once acquired, NEC is accompanied by significant mortality and morbid sequelae. Our understanding of the pathophysiology of NEC continues to evolve, and the development of NEC is likely multifactorial with resultant bowel injury mediated through a final, common inflammatory pathway. The predisposition for NEC appears to involve the interplay between intestinal integrity and function, enteral feeding and bacterial colonization, and regulation of the gastrointestinal and systemic inflammatory response. Commensal organisms or probiotics have been shown to be crucial in the development and modulation of each of these factors within the intestinal epithelium. As a result, probiotic supplementation has been proposed as a promising new intervention for the prevention of NEC. To understand the potential utility of probiotics in NEC, we will discuss: the components of gut defense; the role of the intestinal ecosystem in modulating immunity and inflammation; bacterial colonization patterns in the preterm infant compared with patterns seen in the healthy, full-term infant; the evidence for probiotic use in other populations and diseases; and finally, the evidence of probiotic use specific to the preterm infant and NEC.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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