Cardiorespiratory function is not only the foremost determinant of life after premature birth, but also a major factor of long-term outcomes. However, the path from placental disconnection to nutritional autonomy is enduring and challenging for the preterm infant and, at each step, will have profound influences on respiratory physiology and disease. Fluid and energy intake, specific nutrients such as amino-acids, lipids and vitamins, and their ways of administration —parenteral or enteral—have direct implications on lung tissue composition and cellular functions, thus affect lung development and homeostasis and contributing to acute and chronic respiratory disorders. In addition, metabolomic signatures have recently emerged as biomarkers of bronchopulmonary dysplasia and other neonatal diseases, suggesting a profound implication of specific metabolites such as amino-acids, acylcarnitine and fatty acids in lung injury and repair, inflammation and immune modulation. Recent advances have highlighted the profound influence of the microbiome on many short- and long-term outcomes in the preterm infant. Lung and intestinal microbiomes are deeply intricated, and nutrition plays a prominent role in their establishment and regulation. There is an emerging evidence that human milk prevents bronchopulmonary dysplasia in premature infants, potentially through microbiome composition and/or inflammation modulation. Restoring antibiotic therapy-mediated microbiome disruption is another potentially beneficial action of human milk, which can be in part emulated by pre- and probiotics and supplements. This review will explore the many facets of the gut-lung axis and its pathophysiology in acute and chronic respiratory disorders of the prematurely born infant, and explore established and innovative nutritional approaches for prevention and treatment.
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