Evidence also suggests that HMOs, particularly 2’-FL, may have anti-inflammatory effects.17 To investigate the potential role of 2’-FL in NEC, researchers used a neonatal rat model. Results showed that animals that received HMOs with their formula had an average pathology score that did not differ from disease-free animals, and was significantly lower than the standard formula-fed NEC controls.17 Moreover, addition of 2’-FL alone to formula was also associated with significantly lower pathology scores than those in the formula fed rats, but pathology scores remained higher than those in the disease-free rats and in the HMO group. Although these results look promising, it has to be noted that another recent animal study did not show an effect of 2’-FL on NEC development. In a preterm piglet model, 2’-FL supplementation had no effect on intestinal structure and digestive function and to have no significant effect on NEC incidence.23
A recent clinical study showed that mainly the DSLNT (disialyllacto-N-tetraose) content in human milk is associated with a reduced risk of NEC development in preterms, not the 2’-FL content.24 These results suggest that other HMOs may play a more important role in NEC prevention than 2’-FL.