There is now a way for extremely low birth weight infants to gain weight. They should be given feeds supplemented with probiotics -- healthy, live organism supplements that provide benefit to the host -- say researchers.
Probiotic means "for life" in Latin. Their effect on digestive health and immune function has been studied.
Mohamad Al-Hosni and colleagues from three medical centres, in collaboration with Vermont Oxford Network in the US, evaluated the effect of supplementing enteral (tube) feedings with probiotics in extremely premature infants who weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces or less.
They hypothesised that infants who received probiotic-supplemented feedings would tolerate larger volumes of feeding per day, grow faster and require fewer days of antimicrobial treatment than those in the control group.
Fifty infants received 500 million units of probiotics while 51 infants received feedings with no probiotics.
Results showed superior weight gain in infants who received the probiotics even though the average daily volume of their feedings was less than infants in the control group.
No side effects were seen as a result of probiotic supplementation, according to Al-Hosni, assistant professor of paediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
Al-Hosni concluded that larger clinical trials are needed to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of probiotic supplementation to enteral feeding in this group of infants.
These finding will be presented at the Paediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada.