Dr. Michael Sherman, M.D., of the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

Dr. Michael Sherman, M.D., of the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

COLUMBIA, Mo., – Among the many obstacles that premature babies must overcome to survive, a disease called Necrotizing entercolitis, is one of them. The disease is commonly referred to as NEC, it’s a bacteria infection known for causing the intestine to die by perforating the wall of the intestine, or the bowl wall. Another noteworthy feature of this disease is it is most prevalent in babies born before 32 weeks of gestation. Dr. Michael Sherman, M.D., and Professor of Child Health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, explains what NEC is, and how it can be detected in an interview with KMZU’s Andy Campbell.


The bacteria that perforates the intestinal/bowl wall exudes gas causing the perforation to expand. It’s this gas that can be seen via a gastrointestinal x-ray that indicates the infant has NEC.

The recent study conducted by the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine has also found evidence that the presence of white blood cells known as blood eosinophilia in an infant with NEC is a predictor of future life threatening complications. Dr. Sherman hopes that finding these predictors of future complications sooner can reduce the risk of mortality as well as reduce the cost of medical attention, which he reports can be extremely expensive.

It has been discovered that administering the early form of breast milk, known as colostrum, to these infants can greatly reduce the risk of an infant developing NEC. But, for those infants that do develop the disease, there can be long term affects to the intestine. Now that a prevention of the disease has been indicated, Dr. Sherman explains the study students at the University’s school of medicine conducted as a way of taking steps toward further improvements.

The promising medical students at the University of Missouri, who are conducting research and bringing the medical community one step closer to results include fourth year medical student Lila Wahidi, who was the lead author and researcher of this study.

According to a release from the university’s school of medicine, Wahidi compared medical records of premature babies that had contracted NEC. All of the babies records that she studied had NEC, however she was comparing cases of the disease in patients that had a strong presence of the previously mentioned blood eosinophilia to those with little to none. Wahidi found that babies who had a strong presence of eosinophils in their blood streams for five or more days were more likely to have complications such as, bowel rupture, fibrosis, bowl inflammation, and intestinal strictures that cause serious digestion problems.

The findings in this study has given doctors a way to predict which cases of NEC in future patients will require more intense monitoring and treatment.