The intestine is the largest immune organ in the human body. With a surface area of approximately one tennis court, the gastrointestinal tract also contains the same amount of neuronal tissue as the spinal cord. And inside the intestine resides a vast microbial population with a metabolic capacity equivalent to the liver. This complex organ is the focus of Dr. Joseph Neu’s seminar. Neu pays special attention to the developing gut in pre-term infants, and shows how the right enteral feeding practices can confer great benefits to these babies.
With their severely compromised gut function, Neu cautions that TPN feeding results in increased gut permeability – and increased risk of infections. Enteral feeding has the effect of “priming” the infant gut, reducing its permeability towards microbial invasion. He then examines the criticial role of amino acids such as glutamine and arginine and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Neu concludes his talk by providing concrete recommendations on improving the feeding practices for very low birth weight infants.