Microbiome-targeting therapies have received great attention as approaches to prevent disease in infants born preterm, but their safety and efficacy remain uncertain. Here we summarize the existing literature, focusing on recent meta-analyses and systematic reviews that evaluate the performance of probiotics, prebiotics, and/or synbiotics in clinical trials and studies, emphasizing interventions for which the primary or secondary outcomes were prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis, late-onset sepsis, feeding intolerance, and/or reduction in hospitalization length or all-cause mortality. Current evidence suggests that probiotics and prebiotics are largely safe but conclusions regarding their effectiveness in the neonatal intensive care unit have been mixed. To address this ambiguity, we evaluated publications that collectively support benefits of probiotics with moderate to high certainty evidence in a recent comprehensive network meta-analysis, highlighting limitations in these trials that make it difficult to support with confidence the routine, universal administration of probiotics to preterm infants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2221758
JournalGut microbes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


  • Preterm infants
  • bifidobacteria
  • feeding intolerance
  • lactobacilli
  • late-onset sepsis
  • necrotizing enterocolitis
  • prebiotics
  • probiotics
  • synbiotics


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