Prebiotics for intestinal failure improve gut

Intestinal failure can involve removal of some of the gut. Pre-term (premature) infants often have intestinal failure, and require long-term intravenous feeding. One in eight babies in the US is pre-term, and these babies can develop necrotising enterocolitis which requires surgery to remove the dead part of their guts. The removal saves their lives, but having so much intestine removed means they are not able to digest food and absorb nutrients as well.

Researchers from the University of Illinois, US and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, have carried out tests on new-born piglets with intestinal failure. Eighty-seven piglets, all 48 hours old, were fed one of four fluids: the control (containing standard enteral nutrition and standard parenteral nutrition), control plus prebiotic (short-chain fructooligosaccharides), control plus probiotic (Lactobacillus rhamnosus), or control plus symbiotic (both pre- and probiotic).

They found that the piglets fed with prebiotic and/or synbiotic supplementation produced improved structure and function throughout the remaining gut.

Since adding prebiotics to the intravenous fluid would involve drug development trials and much red tape, one of the researchers, Kelly Tappenden, ran a test to see whether the same results could be obtained by adding the prebiotics to the diet, and the test proved successful.

Source: Journal of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition

First Publishd in March 2012

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