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Necrotising enterocolitis, late-onset sepsis and mortality after routine probiotic introduction in the UK


Objective To compare necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), late-onset sepsis (LOS), focal intestinal perforation (FIP) and mortality in infants from a single neonatal unit before and after probiotic introduction.

Design Retrospective review of infants <32 weeks admitted January 2009–December 2012 (no probiotic) and January 2013–December 2017 (routine probiotics). Infants included were admitted before day 3, and not transferred out before day 3. NEC, LOS and FIP were defined with standard definitions.

Patients 1061 infants were included, 509 preprobiotic and 552 postprobiotic. Median gestation, birth weight and antenatal steroid use did not differ, and proportions of extremely low birthweight infants were similar (37% and 41%).

Results Overall unadjusted risk of NEC (9.2% (95% CI 7.1 to 12.1) vs 10.6% (95% CI 8.2 to 13.4), p=0.48), LOS (16.3% (95% CI 13.2 to 19.6) vs 14.1% (95% CI 11.5 to 17.4), p=0.37) and mortality (9.2% (95% CI 7.1 to 12.1) vs 9.7% (95% CI 7.6 to 12.6), p=0.76) did not differ, nor proportion of surgical NEC. In multiple logistic regression, accounting for gestation, birth weight, antenatal steroid, maternal milk, chorioamnionitis and sex, probiotic receipt was not significantly associated with NEC (adjusted OR (aOR) 1.08 (95% CI 0.71 to 1.68), p=0.73), LOS or mortality. In subgroup (645 infants) >28 weeks, aOR for NEC in the probiotic cohort was 0.42 (95% CI 0.2 to 0.99, p=0.047). FIP was more common in the probiotic cohort (OR 2.3 (95% CI 1.0 to 5.4), p=0.04), not significant in regression analysis (2.11 (95% CI 0.97 to 4.95), p=0.05).

Conclusions Probiotic use in this centre did not reduce overall mortality or rates of NEC, LOS or FIP but subgroup analysis identified NEC risk reduction in infants >28 weeks, and LOS reduction <28 weeks.

  • neonatology
  • gastroenterology

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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