Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr.  2021 May;24(3):245-255. 10.5223/pghn.2021.24.3.245.

Probiotics in the Prevention and Treatment of Necrotizing Enterocolitis

  • 1KidZ Health Castle, UZ Brussel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a disease with high morbidity and mortality that occurs mainly in premature born infants. The pathophysiologic mechanisms indicate that gastrointestinal dysbiosis is a major risk factor. We searched for relevant articles published in PubMed and Google Scholar in the English language up to October 2020. Articles were extracted using subject headings and keywords of interest to the topic. Interesting references in included articles were also considered. Network meta-analysis suggests the preventive efficacy of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus spp., but even more for mixtures of Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, and Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus spp. However, studies comparing face-toface different strains are lacking. Moreover, differences in inclusion criteria, dosage strains, and primary outcomes in most trials are major obstacles to providing evidence-based conclusions. Although adverse effects have not been reported in clinical trials, case series of adverse outcomes, mainly septicemia, have been published. Consequently, systematic administration of probiotic bacteria to prevent NEC is still debated in literature. The riskbenefit ratio depends on the incidence of NEC in a neonatal intensive care unit, and evidence has shown that preventive measures excluding probiotic administration can result in a decrease in NEC.


Microbiota; Enterocolitis; necrotizing; Probiotics
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