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New study: probiotics can help save the lives of preterm infants

Press release   •   Dec 16, 2013 10:50 UTC

“…probiotic bacteria could be a life saver for premature babies,” proclaimed the Australian newspaper Herald Sun, when a newly published study in the acknowledged scientific journal Pediatrics showed that daily intake of Chr. Hansen’s probiotics more than halved the risk of the deadly stomach disease necrotizing enterocolitis.

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a very serious condition, where parts of the intestine may undergo tissue death. It mainly affects premature infants and may cause severe and even fatal complications. 6-7% of premature babies in neonatal intensive care units can be affected by NEC and approx. 25% of babies with the condition don't survive1.

Largest study ever on NEC
Including 1,100 premature infants, the international study coordinated by Associate Professor Sue Jacobs and Professor Suzanne Garland at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia is the largest within this indication to date. “It is a very well-designed, large-scale study and I consider this extremely strong data within an important indication,” says Chr. Hansen’s Dorte Eskesen, Senior Scientific Advisor, Health & Nutrition Division. “I am impressed that the study team managed to conduct a study of this size in vulnerable infants in neonatal intensive care units.”

The study tested Chr. Hansen’s probiotic strains Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®, Streptococcus thermophilus TH-4 and Bifidobacterium infantis BB-02, in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study. And the beneficial effect of these probiotics was convincing.

Risk reduced by more than 50%
The study findings were significant and truly encouraging. Babies that received the probiotic mixture had half the risk of developing NEC compared to babies that received placebo. Thus, the study verifies what previous studies have concluded, that specific probiotics play an important role in reducing NEC.

The study demonstrates that the three probiotic strains can greatly benefit the lives of families with premature babies. Other clinical studies have shown that these probiotics effectively alleviate diarrhea and infections as well as support a healthy development of the infant microbiota.

Encouraging confirmation
Christian Barker, Executive Vice President, Health & Nutrition Division is very pleased with the study results: “We have a strong focus on infant health and support research initiatives that will enable us to make continuous advancements. The study findings are remarkable. From a commercial point of view, however, NEC is a small area compared to other indications such as functional bowel disorders and diarrhea. Nonetheless, it is encouraging receiving this type of confirmation that Chr. Hansen’s probiotics make a difference for such a serious condition as NEC.”

1 Shlomai et al. “Probiotics for Preterm Neonates: What Will It Take to Change Clinical Practice?”, Neonatology 2014;105:64-70 (published online Nov. 23, 2013)

Chr. Hansen is a global bioscience company that develops natural ingredient solutions for the food, nutritional, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. The products include cultures, enzymes, probiotics and natural colors, and all solutions are based on strong research and development competencies coupled with significant technology investments. Revenue in the 2013/14 financial year was EUR 756 million. The company holds a leading market position in all its divisions: Cultures & Enzymes, Health & Nutrition and Natural Colors. It has more than 2,500 dedicated employees in over 30 countries and main production facilities in Denmark, France, USA and Germany. Chr. Hansen was founded in 1874 and is listed on NASDAQ OMX Copenhagen.

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