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J Pediatr Pharmacol Ther. 2019 Jan-Feb;24(1):10-15. doi: 10.5863/1551-6776-24.1.10.

Efficacy of Bifidobacterium Species in Prevention of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Very-Low Birth Weight Infants. A Systematic Review.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is one of the most common and serious gastrointestinal diseases in preterm infants. The aim of this systematic review examines the effects of probiotics on preventing NEC in very-low birth weight (VLBW) infants with a focus on the Bifidobacterium species and its strains. A systematic review of randomized trials and retrospective studies analyzing the use of probiotics to prevent NEC in VLBW infants was conducted using PubMed, Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials, and Google Scholar (1996-2016). Trials reporting NEC involving preterm infants who were given Bifidobacterium alone in the first month of life were included in the systematic review. Nine studies were suitable for inclusion. Nine studies involving VLBW infants were analyzed for strain specific effects of Bifidobacterium for the prevention of NEC ≥ Stage II. B breve showed some benefit in infants < 34 weeks GA with relative risk (RR) of 0.43 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.21-0.87) p = 0.019, but not in neonates < 28 weeks. B lactis greatly reduced the incidence of NEC with a RR 0.11 (95% CI: 0.03-0.47), p = < 0.001. B bifidum was not widely studied but resulted in no cases of NEC. Bifidobacterium proved to be statistically significant in reducing the incidence of NEC in preterm infants.


necrotizing enterocolitis; preterm infant; probiotics; systemic review; very-low birth weight

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure The authors declare no conflicts or financial interest in any product or service mentioned in the manuscript, including grants, equipment, medications, employment, gifts, and honoraria.

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