Chr. Hansen has produced a new three-strain probiotic blend that can help support the health and development of intestines in preterm babies. The newly-released probiotic blend has been found to lower the risk of developing Necrotizing enterocolitis by 50%.
Commenting on the key influences that prompted Chr. Hansen to research and develop its new three-strain probiotic blend, Adam Baker, Senior Manager of Human Health Innovation, revealed: “We are continuously driving research and innovation and we only develop and use strains that are backed by science. This is key for having strains that truly support and maintain human health.”
The prevalence of NEC, an inflammatory disease
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an inflammatory disease and the leading cause of mortality worldwide for preterm babies. Chr. Hansen reveals that experts believe an underdeveloped or damaged intestine is the main cause of NEC, which results from complications including lack of blood or oxygen to the intestine, injury to the intestinal lining or bacterial growth on the intestinal wall.
Approximately 1-2% of all infants are born very preterm or extremely preterm. Babies who are born very preterm or extremely preterm, are identified as those born two months or more earlier than their planned arrival date. In total, there are 2.4 million babies around the world born very preterm or extremely preterm every year.
Of these 2.4 million babies born, NEC currently affects 5% of infants and leads to a mortality rate of up to 30%.
Probiotic support for preterm infants
Detailing how the probiotic blend helps preterm infants, Baker said: “The strains in the tri-blend help and support the healthy development of the baby’s gastrointestinal system.”
“It has been shown in clinical trials that this probiotic blend may protect the babies from developing NEC (Necrotizing enterocolitis), a serious disease that affects the intestines of premature infants),” explained Baker.
The three-strain probiotic blend has shown to help support the intestinal tract for healthy immune and digestive function, Chr. Hansen revealed. Already launched via partnerships in both the US and Europe, the probiotic strain is being used in some neonatal intensive care units, where it is fed to babies through a feeding tube.
“We have developed a specific product which is custom developed for use in the intensive care departments of hospitals that care for preterm babies,” stated Baker. Chr. Hansen revealed that it has specifically developed a single dose format especially adapted for use in hospitals.
The new probiotic consists of a blend of three different probiotic strains: Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12, TH-4 Streptococcus thermophilus and Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis.
“Preterm infants typically have an unbalanced intestinal microbiota making them vulnerable to infections and certain life-threatening diseases. This three-strain probiotic product with different strains and different species has been shown to provide functional advantages for the preterm population,” explains Ulla Holmboe Gondolf, senior scientific advisor at Chr. Hansen.
As preterm infants have a high vulnerability to infections, the natural ingredient producer implemented necessary and strict production processes.
In developing its new three-strain probiotic, Chr. Hansen “added many more requirements on top of what is stipulated as standard to go the extra mile to ensure the highest quality, safe product for this vulnerable population”, Scorey explained.
As part of its extra requirements, the company extended contaminant testing and made stricter requirements for both environmental monitoring and cleaning, before production, to remove contamination risks.
The product is also packed in single-use, sealed packages to help reduce the risk of contamination compared to multi-use containers.
“The multi-strain probiotic has been tested in two high-quality clinical trials for its efficacy and safety,” says Andrew Scorey, senior vice president for Human Health at Chr. Hansen.
Through its two clinical trials, which included a total of more than 1,200 preterm infants born two months or earlier than their due date, the blend has been found to lower the risk of NEC by up to 50%.