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Preemies Infected With More Dangerous Types of Bacteria: Study
Date:12/9/2011

FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Premature infants have fewer types of bacteria in their stomachs and intestines than full-term babies, new research shows.

However, the bacteria and other microbes often found in preemies, such as Candida fungus, are also more dangerous, researchers from Duke University Medical Center noted.

"You see diversity emerge earlier in [full-term] infants, whereas in premature infants, they seem to be stuck -- they have fewer types of bacteria and the diversity doesn't change a lot over the first month of life," the study's senior author, Dr. Patrick Seed, assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke, said in a Duke news release.

"Because the babies get colonized with a specific kind of bacterium, for example, it appears these potentially dangerous species take over space in the gut and bowel. Their dominance may put the babies at risk of infection," Seed pointed out.

The researchers used DNA typing of the bacteria, fungi and parasites to examine the microbes in 11 premature infants. The investigators found five of the babies had blood infections and three had necrotizing colitis -- the death of bowel due to an infection. The premature infants also had less diversity of bacteria in their digestive systems than full-term infants -- even after the antibiotic treatments they were given ended.

The study, published in the Dec. 9 online edition of PLoS One, also found the majority of microbes found in the premature babies included types of bacteria and yeast known to cause very serious infections. In addition, the preterm babies had many more infections than the full-term babies, particularly in the first month of life. And these infections lasted longer.

The study authors noted the digestive tracts of the premature babies were primarily infected with organisms found in stool specimens, but also included Staphylococcus epidermidis -- a type of staph infection. Although
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