Premie NEC Project
The early development of a healthy intestinal microbiota is crucial for infant health and survival. Breast fed babies have less infections than formula fed infants. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a common disease of premature infants that is associated with high mortality rates. There are currently no effective preventive agents or diagnostics for this devastating disease. The most promising interventions shown to prevent NEC are breast milk feedings and probiotic microorganisms - beneficial microorganisms that colonize the gastrointestinal tract. This multi-disciplinary project has an ongoing clinical trial of two probiotic products in premature infants, with preliminary evidence from pilot studies showing that human milk oligosaccharides (complex sugars) selectively stimulate the growth of specific beneficial microbiota, as well as a novel potential biomarker of infant susceptibility. The goals of this project are to simultaneously develop diagnostics that can predict risk of NEC early, and safe, effective dietary therapies for high-risk premature infants that prevent NEC and improve infant health.