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Role of bacterial colonization in neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis and its prevention.

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  • 1Shanghai Institute for Pediatric Research, Shanghai Second Medical University, China.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most common gastrointestinal emergency in premature infants. A major component of the pathophysiology of NEC is the nature of the interaction of bacteria with the premature gut. Intestine microflora are important to the host in resistance to bacterial infections. Diet and environmental conditions can influence this ecosystem. A breast-fed full-term infant has a preferred intestine microbiota in which bifidobacteria predominate over the potentially harmful bacteria, whereas in formula-fed infants coliforms, enterococci and bacteroides predominate. The pattern of bacterial colonization in the premature neonate gut is quite different from that in the gut of the healthy full-term infant. Those infants requiring intensive care acquire intestinal organisms slowly, and the establishment of bifidobacterial flora is retarded. A delayed bacterial colonization of the gut with a limited number of bacterial species tends to be virulent. Bacterial overgrowth is one of major factors promoting bacterial translocation. The aberrant colonization of the premature infant may contribute to the development of NEC. Breast feeding protects infants against NEC. Oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates, natural components in human milk, may prevent intestinal attachment of enteropathogens by acting as receptor homologues. Probiotics and prebiotics modulate the composition of human intestine microflora to the benefit of the host. The beneficial effects may result in the suppression of colonization of harmful microoganisms and/or the stimulation of bifidobacterial growth. In the future, control and manipulation of bacterial colonization in the neonate gut may be a new approach to the prevention and treatment of bacterial intestinal disease of various etiologies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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