Which treatments for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) are under investigation?

Updated: Dec 27, 2017
  • Author: Shelley C Springer, JD, MD, MSc, MBA, FAAP; Chief Editor: Muhammad Aslam, MD  more...
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Lactoferrin appears to have potential for prevention of neonatal sepsis and NEC, but few safety and efficacy studies are complete and available. [42]

Two Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews studies discussed very promising but also very preliminary treatments.

One evaluated lactoferrin supplementation in the milk of infants and suggests it shows promising preliminary results in reducing the incidence of late-onset sepsis in infants weighing less than 1500 g. When given alone, it did not reduce the incidence of NEC in preterm neonates. Long-term neurologic outcomes were not assessed, and the authors stress that dosing, duration, and type of lactoferrin prophylaxis need to be further studied. [43]

The other study found evidence that IV pentoxifylline as an adjunct to antibiotic therapy may reduce mortality and duration of hospitalization in neonates with sepsis; no completed studies were found confirming outcomes of treatment for patients with NEC. Although these results also are promising, more research is needed to validate the findings. [44]

Stem cell therapy is being investigated, both for its potential protective as well as curative effect. [45] Stem cells of various progenitors can be harvested from a number of sources, including amniotic fluid, bone marrow and enteric sources. McCulloh et al has shown promising results from more readily available amniotic fluid mesenchymal stem cells on gut barrier integrity and  permeability, decreasing both the incidence and severity of NEC in experimental models. [46, 47]

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