Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an intestinal disease that affects premature and medically fragile infants. NEC affects the bowels and causes an inflammatory process that can lead to intestinal tissue damage and death.
NEC affects 5-10% of babies born weighing less than 1,500 grams. Despite significant advances in neonatal care, the morbidity and mortality rates associated with this disease have not significantly improved in 30 years. In the U.S. alone, thousands of babies develop NEC each year and hundreds of babies die from this complex intestinal condition. Once diagnosed, many babies only live for a few hours or days, and survivors can have lifelong neurological and nutritional complications.
According to the C.D.C., NEC is a leading cause of overall infant mortality in the United States. Despite focused research on NEC for over four decades, we are still striving to fully understand why NEC occurs, when NEC occurs, how NEC occurs, and which neonates will develop the disease.