Recent findings suggest that oral supplementation with bovine colostrum may improve resistance against septic shock and brain barrier disruption during bloodstream infections caused by Staphylococcus epidermis in preterm piglets.
Septic shock in preterm infants
Preterm neonates are particularly susceptible to serious infections due to their immature innate immune system and limited maternal passive immunity. They often have reduced numbers of blood neutrophils and soluble immune factors, such as circulating Immunoglobulin G (IgG). Even with great caution and improvements in the clinical care, many preterm infants are affected by sepsis while in hospital. The use of indwelling catheters required for fluid, drugs and nutrition treatments further increase the risk.
Normally, the brain is protected by the blood-brain barrier, but sepsis may cause functionally impairment leaving the vital organ without proper protection. Thus, a major risk from sepsis is brain injury and long-term neurodevelopmental impairment.
Colostrum is the first milk in mammals and contains a wide range of bioactive factors, including immunoglobulins, anti-inflammatory factors, anti-microbial factors, and growth factors. It is tailored to improve the antimicrobial resistance of newborns. Oral supplementation with bovine colostrum to preterm parentally nourished neonates may protect against sepsis and brain injury.
So what did they do?
Preterm newborn piglets were given intra-arterial Staphylococcus epidermis and divided into two groups provided i) total parental nutrition, ii) parenteral nutrition and enteral supplementation with bovine colostrum. Both where tested against the control group iii) uninfected and provided total parental nutrition.
Bovine colostrum against septic shock
The results strongly indicate that early oral supplementation with bovine colostrum prevents septic shock and ameliorates brain barrier disruption and neuroinflammation during bloodstream infection in newborn preterm piglets.
After 24 hours, colostrum supplementation reduced the abundance of Staphylococcus epidermis in both the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid. Furthermore, supplementation with bovine colostrum normalized the arterial blood pressure and increased motor activity to the levels found in the control group. Finally, piglets fed bovine colostrum showed reduced permeability in the blood-cerebrospinal barrier and reduced levels of leukocytes in the cerebrospinal fluid, accompanied by normalized gene expression of tight junction proteins and reduced gene expression of leukocyte chemoattractants.
Bovine colostrum may improve resistance against systemic infection in immature, immune-compromised preterm infants.
The result are very promising and hold the potential to find a way to decrease the risk of severe damage from systemic infections in preterm infants in the future. Colostrum has already been proven superior as supplemental enteral feeding for preterm infants when mothers own milk is in short, providing a whole range of positive effects that may give the newborns a better start of life. As another beneficial aspect, the potential protective nature of bovine colostrum against blood barrier disruption only adds to its usability.
Read a brief overview of the results here: Research papers on bovine colostrum