A new study suggests that the survival rate of premature babies born between 26 to 31 weeks of gestation can be improved by blocking light from reaching the intravenously-fed infused nutritious mixture they depend on for survival.
Premature babies need to be fed intravenously due to the immaturity of their digestive system and their high nutritional requirements during their first days of life.
Exposing this type of food preparation to light generates oxidants which the premature infant's immature defenses can not fight.
"An easy to implement, fully light-shielded delivery system for parenteral nutrition needs to be developed to reduce mortality rates in premature infants," said study's lead author Jean-Claude Lavoie from CHU Sainte-Justine, Canada.
Parenteral nutrition is essential to the survival of babies born preterm because it provides them with vital nutrients like proteins, fat and glucose, and enables them to develop just as fetuses of their age would do in their mother's womb.
"The photo-excited vitamins B2 and 'electron donors' such as vitamin C, amino acids and lipids all interact in the multivitamin solution and generate oxidants," the researcher said.
"This creates an oxidative stress which kills newborn cells. Studies show that shielding parenteral nutrition from light significantly decreases such an interaction," he added.
"However, the solution has to be shielded from the moment it is prepared in the pharmacy all the way through to infusion on the ward, including all bags, tubing and syringes through which it passes," said co-researcher Maxime Thibault, a pharmacist at CHU Sainte-Justine.
"Partial photo-protection is ineffective in preventing oxidant generation," Thibault said.
Jean-Claude Lavoie's team is about to launch a clinical trial to assess the efficacy of an end-to-end photo-protected delivery system that would be easy to implement in clinical settings.
The study was published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition