Background & Aims: We aimed to compare the effectiveness of single- vs multiple-strain probiotics in a network meta-analysis of randomized trials. Methods: We searched MEDLINE, Embase, Science Citation Index Expanded, CINAHL, Scopus, Cochrane CENTRAL, BIOSIS Previews, and Google Scholar through January 1, 2019, for studies of single-strain and multistrain probiotic formulations on the outcomes of preterm, low-birth-weight neonates. We used a frequentist approach for network meta-analysis and the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach to assess the certainty of evidence. Primary outcomes included all-cause mortality, severe necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) (Bell stage II or more), and culture-proven sepsis. Results: We analyzed data from 63 trials involving 15,712 preterm infants. Compared with placebo, a combination of 1 or more Lactobacillus species (spp) and 1 or more Bifidobacterium spp was the only intervention with moderate- or high-quality evidence of reduced all-cause mortality (odds ratio [OR], 0.56; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.39–0.80). Among interventions with moderate- or high-quality evidence for efficacy compared with placebo, combinations of 1 or more Lactobacillus spp and 1 or more Bifidobacterium spp, Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies lactis, Lactobacillus reuteri, or Lactobacillus rhamnosus significantly reduced severe NEC (OR, 0.35 [95% CI, 0.20–0.59]; OR, 0.31 [95% CI, 0.13–0.74]; OR, 0.55 [95% CI, 0.34–0.91]; and OR, 0.44 [95% CI, 0.21–0.90], respectively). There was moderate- or high-quality evidence that combinations of 1 or more Lactobacillus spp and 1 or more Bifidobacterium spp and Saccharomyces boulardii reduced the number of days to reach full feeding (mean reduction of 3.30 days [95% CI, reduction of 5.91–0.69 days]). There was moderate- or high-quality evidence that, compared with placebo, the single-species product B animalis subsp lactis or L reuteri significantly reduced duration of hospitalization (mean reduction of 13.00 days [95% CI, reduction of 22.71–3.29 days] and mean reduction of 7.89 days [95% CI, reduction of 11.60–4.17 days], respectively). Conclusions: In a systematic review and network meta-analysis of studies to determine the effects of single-strain and multistrain probiotic formulations on outcomes of preterm, low-birth-weight neonates, we found moderate to high evidence for the superiority of combinations of 1 or more Lactobacillus spp and 1 or more Bifidobacterium spp vs single- and other multiple-strain probiotic treatments. The combinations of Bacillus spp and Enterococcus spp, and 1 or more Bifidobacterium spp and Streptococcus salivarius subsp thermophilus, might produce the largest reduction in NEC development. Further trials are needed.
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