Protecting premature infants from a deadly intestinal disease, new research suggests, may boil down to a surprising combination: milk and bacteria.
According to a new study, breastmilk provides a vital antibody that binds to bacteria in a premature infant’s gut. Preemies with higher amounts of bacteria bonded to the antibody from their mothers’ milk are less likely to develop NEC, or necrotizing enterocolitis. And that’s no small feat. The intestinal disease can cause distended abdomen, infection, low blood pressure and shock. About 15% of infants who develop NEC die, and those who survive can face long-term health challenges.