Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a vascular disorder of the developing retina in preterm infants and is a leading cause of childhood blindness. Perinatal infection plays a pathogenic role in ROP. Probiotic supplementation reduces the risk of late onset sepsis (LOS) in preterm infants but it remains to be determined whether this reduction translates into a reduction of other complications. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the possible role of probiotics in altering the risk of ROP. Eleven randomized controlled trials (4250 infants; probiotics: 2121) were included in the meta-analysis that showed a significantly decreased rate of LOS with a risk ratio (RR) of 0.807 and a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 0.705 to 0.924 (P = 0.010; fixed effects model) but could not demonstrate a significant effect of probiotics on any stage ROP (RR 1.053, 95% CI 0.903 to 1.228, P = 0.508, 4 studies), or severe ROP (RR 0.841, 95% CI 0.666 to 1.063, P = 0.148, 9 studies). Meta-regression did not show any significant association between the RR for LOS and the RR for severe ROP. In conclusion, our results suggest that infection prevention by probiotics does not affect the risk of developing ROP in preterm infants.
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