Affiliation: University of Chicago, Department of Pediatrics and Medicine, Section of Neonatology and Gastroenterology, 5841 S. Maryland Ave MC6060, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
Neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis is a devastating inflammatory bowel disease of premature infants. The pathogenesis remains incompletely understood and there is no specific treatment. Efforts are ongoing to understand aspects of intestinal immaturity which contribute to susceptibility to this disease. This review focuses on bacterial colonization patterns, intestinal barrier function, and inflammatory responses of immature enterocytes leading to a unique vulnerability of the preterm gut. In addition the possible therapeutic potential of factors in human milk and probiotic bacteria is discussed.