Objective In a previous study, we found that glutamine-enriched enteral nutrition in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants decreased the incidence of both serious infections in the neonatal period and atopic dermatitis in the first year of life. The aims of this follow-up study were to determine whether these effects are related to changes in cytokine profiles and to assess the physiological changes in cytokine profiles during the first year of life in these VLBW infants.
Methods 89 infants were eligible for the follow-up study (12 died, one chromosomal abnormality). Th1 (IFN-γ, TNF-α and IL-2) and Th2 (IL-10, IL-5, and IL-4) cytokine profiles were determined at one year. Information on allergic and infectious disease was previously obtained by questionnaire.
Results Cytokine profiles were determined in 59/89 (66%) infants: 28 in glutamine-supplemented and 31 in the control group. Glutamine supplementation in the neonatal period did not affect cytokine profiles at one year. Cytokine profiles were similar in infants with and without atopy, and were not related to the occurrence of infectious diseases. All cytokine levels except IL-2 significantly increased between birth and one year.
Conclusions The beneficial effect of glutamine-enriched enteral nutrition on the incidence of serious neonatal infections and atopic dermatitis during the first year of life is not related to changes in the Th1 and Th2 cytokine profiles in the peripheral blood. All cytokine levels except IL-2 increased between birth and one year in these VLBW infants.