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Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Researchers Identify Biomarkers of Poor Outcomes in Preterm Infants

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Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have identified biomarkers of poor outcomes in preterm infants that may help identify new approaches to prevention. The study investigated a polymorphism in a gene important for the immune system. Scientists found that the polymorphism raises the risk of bad outcomes in preterm infants, including death, necrotizing enterocolitis (death of intestinal tissue), and gram negative sepsis, an overwhelming infection.

According to Ardythe Morrow, Ph.D., a researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Perinatal Institute:

The secretor gene (FUT2) controls secretion of a substance known as ‘H antigen’ in saliva, urine, plasma, and other body fluids. Our data suggest that H antigen may be important to the health of preterm infants. Research is continuing to better understand the impact of FUT2 in prematurity and should provide important insights into disease progression and infant vulnerability. We speculate these high risk infants may especially benefit from human milk oligosaccharide, a complex carboyhydrate made by enzymes of the FUT2 gene.

Salivary DNA was collected from 410 infants born at or before 32 weeks gestational age to determine the FUT2 genotype. The H antigen, a carbohydrate produced by secretor gene enzymes, was measured in saliva samples collected on day 9 +/- 5. In the study cohort, 26 infants died, 30 had necrotizing enterocolitis and 96 had confirmed sepsis.

Death occurred in 15% of 135 infants with low levels of H antigen in their saliva compared to 2% of 248 infants with high levels of H antigen. Low H antigen was also associated with increased likelihood of death due to necrotizing enterocolitis and spesis. Low H antigen was further associated with greater odds of contracting necrotizing enterocolitis. Lack of H antigen secretion predicted gram negative sepsis.

The study is published in the Journal Pediatrics (link below).

Study: Fucosyltransferase 2 Non-Secretor and Low Secretor Status Predicts Severe Outcomes in Premature Infants.

Source: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center