(HealthDay News) — Probiotics don’t appear to protect very preterm infants from serious complications, such as necrotizing enterocolitis, sepsis, or death, according to a new study published online November 25 in The Lancet.

The study included 1,315 very preterm infants. The babies were given either the probiotic Bifidobacterium breve or a placebo. This probiotic was used because it was the only one previously reported to show any benefit when the study began, the study authors explained.

Sepsis occurred in 11% of the probiotic group and 12% of the placebo group. Necrotizing enterocolitis occurred in 9% of the probiotic group and 10% of the placebo group. Death before hospital discharge occurred in 8 percent of the probiotic group and 9% of the placebo group, the researchers found. There were no safety issues associated with the use of the probiotic, the study authors said.

A previous study found probiotics reduced the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in very preterm infants. But, the infants in that study had low overall complication rates. In addition, different strains of probiotics were included in the review, the authors of the new study explained. “These two large trials suggest that, while probiotics are generally safe in the short term, they are not universally effective, and that different strains and combinations should be investigated separately,” Kate Costeloe, from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues said in a journal news release.

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