Probiotic supplement helps form microbiome in preterm infants, study finds

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Probiotic supplement helps form microbiome in preterm infants, study finds

Related tags Probiotic preterm infants Bifidobacterium

A probiotic supplement may help accelerate the gut microbiome’s development in babies who are born without a fully formed gut microbiome, according to Canadian researchers.

The study found that a blend of five species not only promoted the microbiome’s development but also reduced intestinal inflammation in extremely preterm infants.

“The findings show that a daily probiotic supplement containing the right type of microbes prompted a rapid transition of the gut microbiome to what is normally observed in healthy, breastfed infants born at term,”​ explains Dr Marie-Claire Arrieta, an Assistant Professor at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and co lead study author.

“This mature microbiome is more stable, more resilient and was linked to reduced inflammation in the babies’ gut.”


The University of Calgary researchers used a randomised clinical trial that included infants born at less than 29 weeks gestation and weighing less than one kilogram at birth.

The probiotic product FloraBABY, contained four strains of Bifidobacterium​ species native to the infant gut and one Lacticaseibacillus ​strain.

The team found that daily administration of the blend accelerated the transition into a mature, term-like microbiome with higher stability and species interconnectivity.

This was confirmed by structural equation modelling that confirmed the probiotic as a major determinant for the trajectory of microbiome assembly.

Published in Cell Host & Microbe​, the study also noted that Bifidobacterium​-driven microbiome maturation was linked to an anti-inflammatory intestinal immune milieu.

“This demonstrates that Bifidobacterium strains are ecosystem engineers that lead to an acceleration of microbiome maturation and immunological consequences in extremely premature infants,”​ the team states.

Probiotics are often recommended to moderately premature infants to prevent serious gastrointestinal inflammation and sepsis.

However, there isn’t sufficient evidence to recommend probiotic use in extremely premature infants, even if this group is at the highest risk of these conditions.

Infants born very prematurely looks very different than that of an infant born at term, with very reduced numbers of bifidobacterial species, which are essential to a healthy infant microbiome.

Their immature gut microbiome also has high numbers of potential pathogens that can cause life-threatening infections.

‘Unique challenges’

“Due to their immature digestive and immune systems, preterm babies face unique challenges when it comes to feeding,” ​adds Dr Belal Alshaikh, Clinical Associate Professor at the CSM, and co-lead study author.

“The blend of probiotics in our study resulted in better feeding tolerance and reduced signs of allergic reaction in babies’ digestive system.

“Some probiotic strains were found in the gut after six months of stopping probiotics and may have contributed to the low occurrence of food allergy after hospital discharge.”

While the study suggests that probiotics can improve immune and digestive health of preterm babies, Dr Alshaikh says there is still a need for more research to identify the best probiotic blend and confirm the safety of available commercial products.

He adds, parents should check with their health-care provider before administering probiotics to a newborn.

Source: Cell Host & Microbe

Published online:

“Supplementation with a probiotic mixture accelerates gut microbiome maturation and reduces intestinal inflammation in extremely preterm infants.”

Authors: Jumana Samara et al

Related topics Ingredients

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