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A Journal on Pediatrics, Neonatology, Adolescent Medicine,
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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Minerva Pediatrica 2008 June;60(3):327-35

language: Italian

Infant formulas supplemented with prebiotics: intestinal microbiota and immune responses

Fanaro S., Vigi V.

Sezione di Pediatria Unità di Terapia Intensiva Neonatale e Neonatologia Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Ferrara, Italia


It is well known that the type of feeding influences the composition of the gut microflora after birth. Human milk favours thegrowth of a “bifidus flora” which, according to several evidences, may activate the immune system and defend from pathogens. Breast milk oligosaccharides, which are involved in many functional effects both at local and systemic level, are thought to stimulate the growth of health promoting microbes, such as bifidobacteria, and may ultimately influence the immune system. In accordance with this current working hypothesis, dietary modulation of the gut microbiota to obtain a “bifidus flora” also in bottle-fed infants may be a useful way to stimulate immunological functions and to harbour a biological barrier against pathogens. In several clinical trials prebiotic oligosaccharides have been used to mimic the beneficial effects of breast milk oligosaccharides. A mixture of oligosaccharides has shown its efficacy in stimulating the establishment of a “bifidus flora”, with stools closer to those found in breast-fed infants. Several experimental data also indicate that oligosaccharides might modulate the immune system and contribute to the improvement of the protective properties of infant formulas.

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