Washington, Oct 16 (IANS) Adding the right prebiotic (dietary fibre) to the diets of infants with intestinal failure triggers bacterial growth impacting their intestinal flora favourably, an American study says.
At least 10,000 US patients, many of them premature infants, are totally reliant on intravenous (IV) feeding because their intestines have been surgically shortened to remove the part infected with necrotizing enterocolitis, a kind of gangrene, said Kelly A. Tappenden, professor of gastrointestinal physiology at the University of Illinois.
In the US, one in eight infants is born premature and removing necrotized, or dead, intestine is the most common surgical emergency in these babies, the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition reports.
"When we fed the carbohydrate fructooligosaccharide (FOS) as a prebiotic, the gut grew and increased in function. Surgery saves their lives, but with so much intestine removed, they're unable to digest or absorb nutrients," said Tappenden, according to an Illinois statement.
"These babies are also at risk for long-term complications, such as bone demineralization and liver failure. Our goal is to take kids who've had this resection and cause their gut to grow and adapt," she said.
"The study showed that using the correct pre- and probiotic in combination could enhance these results even more," added Tappenden.
When FOS enters the intestines, bacteria convert it into butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that increases the size of the gut and its ability to digest and absorb nutrients, she said.
But today's IV solutions don't contain butyrate and adding it would entail drug development trials and regulatory red tape. She wanted to see if adding this carbohydrate to the diet while continuing to provide most nutrients intravenously would cause the gut to start producing butyrate on its own. It worked.
Tappenden tested her hypothesis about butyrate using newborn piglets, an excellent model for the human infant in metabolism and physiology.