Human and Bovine Colostrum for Prevention of Necrotizing Enterocolitis: A Meta-analysis


Human and bovine colostrum (HBC) administration has been linked to beneficial effects on morbidity and mortality associated with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).


To determine the effectiveness and safety of HBC for reducing NEC, mortality, sepsis, time to full-feed and feeding intolerance in preterm infants.


We conducted searches through Medline, Embase, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and gray literature.


Randomized controlled trials comparing human or bovine colostrum to placebo.


Two reviewers independently did screening, review, and extraction.


Eight studies (385 infants) proved eligible. In comparison with placebo, HBC revealed no effect on the incidence of severe NEC (relative risk [RR]: 0.99; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.48 to 2.02, I2 = 2.2%; moderate certainty of evidence), all-cause mortality (RR: 0.88; 95% CI 0.39 to 1.82, I2 = 0%; moderate certainty), culture-proven sepsis (RR: 0.78; 95% CI 0.53 to 1.14, I2 = 0%; moderate certainty), and feed intolerance (RR: 0.97; 95% CI 0.37 to 2.56, I2 = 55%; low certainty). HBC revealed a significant effect on reducing the mean days to reach full enteral feed (mean difference: –3.55; 95% CI 0.33 to 6.77, I2 = 41.1%; moderate certainty). The indirect comparison of bovine versus human colostrum revealed no difference in any outcome.


The number of patients was modest, whereas the number of NEC-related events was low.


Bovine or human colostrum has no effect on severe NEC, mortality, culture-proven sepsis, feed intolerance, or length of stay. Additional research focused on the impact on enteral feeding may be needed to confirm the findings on this outcome.

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