In a recent study published in Nature, it was found that feeding newborn babies with a combination of probiotics and prebiotics that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria reduces the risk of sepsis (bacterial infection of blood) significantly.
This study, carried out in rural India, concluded that the group receiving the pre/pro-biotics combination had a statistically significant 40% risk reduction of death and sepsis when compared to the control group (5.4% vs 9%, respectively). The initial risk reduction expected from this treatment was 20%, but the treatment resulted in twice the benefit (40%) which led the data safety and monitoring board to stop the trial early because it was not ethical to withhold a highly effective treatment from other babies in the control group.
It was also found that other infections (other than sepsis) also had statistically significant reduced risk between 55 to 80% when comparing newborns given the pre/pro-biotics combination to those without.
The pre/pro-biotics combination was given orally, and cost approximately USD1 per dose. It was started between day 2 to 4 of life and continued daily for a period of 7 days. The newborns were then monitored up to 60 days.
This combination of probiotics and prebiotics was surprisingly well-tolerated with minimal side effects. During the treatment, there were 6 cases of abdominal bloating of which 5 cases were from the control group!
Panigrahi, P., Parida, S., Nanda, N., Satpathy, R., Pradhan, L., Chandel, D., Baccaglini, L., Mohapatra, A., Mohapatra, S., Misra, P., Chaudhry, R., Chen, H., Johnson, J., Morris, J., Paneth, N. and Gewolb, I. (2017). A randomized synbiotic trial to prevent sepsis among infants in rural India. Nature.