Griffiths et al, Health Technology Assessment,December 2018
Infections acquired in hospital are an important cause of morbidity and mortality in very preterm infants. Several small trials have suggested that supplementing the enteral diet of very preterm infants with lactoferrin, an antimicrobial protein processed from cow’s milk, prevents infections and associated complications.
To determine whether or not enteral supplementation with bovine lactoferrin (The Tatua Cooperative Dairy Company Ltd, Morrinsville, New Zealand) reduces the risk of late-onset infection (acquired > 72 hours after birth) and other morbidity and mortality in very preterm infants.
Randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. Randomisation was via a web-based portal and used an algorithm that minimised for recruitment site, weeks of gestation, sex and single versus multiple births.
Of 2203 enrolled infants, primary outcome data were available for 2182 infants (99%). In the intervention group, 316 out of 1093 (28.9%) infants acquired a late-onset infection versus 334 out of 1089 (30.7%) infants in the control group [adjusted risk ratio (RR) 0.95, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.86 to 1.04]. There were no significant differences in any secondary outcomes: microbiologically confirmed infection (RR 1.05, 99% CI 0.87 to 1.26), mortality (RR 1.05, 99% CI 0.66 to 1.68), NEC (RR 1.13, 99% CI 0.68 to 1.89), ROP (RR 0.89, 99% CI 0.62 to 1.28), BPD (RR 1.01, 99% CI 0.90 to 1.13), or a composite of infection, NEC, ROP, BPD and mortality (RR 1.01, 99% CI 0.94 to 1.08). There were no differences in the number of days of receipt of antimicrobials, length of stay in hospital, or length of stay in intensive care, high-dependency or special-care settings. There were 16 reports of serious adverse events for infants in the lactoferrin group and 10 for infants in the sucrose group.
Enteral supplementation with bovine lactoferrin does not reduce the incidence of infection, mortality or other morbidity in very preterm infants.