Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in preterm infants. RDS is caused by a deficiency, dysfunction, or inactivation of pulmonary surfactant. Numerous surfactants of either animal extract or synthetic design have been shown to improve outcomes. New surfactant preparations that include peptides or whole proteins that mimic endogenous surfactant protein have recently been developed and tested.
To assess the effect of administration of synthetic surfactant containing surfactant protein mimics compared to animal derived surfactant extract on the risk of mortality, chronic lung disease, and other morbidities associated with prematurity in preterm infants at risk for or having RDS.
Standard search methods of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group were used. The search included MEDLINE (1966 - May 2007) and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library) in all languages. In addition, published abstracts of the Society of Pediatric Research were searched electronically. For abstract books that did not include key words, the search was limited to the relevant sections on pulmonary and neonatology. The bibliography cited in each publication was obtained and searched in order to identify additional relevant articles.
Randomized and quasi-randomized controlled clinical trials were considered for this review. Studies that enrolled preterm infants or low birth weight infants at risk for or having RDS who were treated with either a synthetic surfactant containing surfactant protein mimics or an animal-derived surfactant preparation were included for this review. Studies that either attempted to treat or prevent respiratory distress syndrome were included.
Data collection and analysis
Primary outcome measures, including mortality, chronic lung disease and multiple secondary outcome measures were abstracted by the reviewers. Statistical analysis was performed using Review Manager software. Categorical data was analyzed using relative risk, risk difference, and number needed to treat. 95% confidence intervals reported. A fixed effects model was used for the meta-analysis. Heterogeneity was assessed using the I-squared statistic.
Two studies were identified that compared protein containing synthetic surfactants to animal derived surfactant preparations. In a meta-analysis of these two studies, infants who received protein containing synthetic surfactant compared to animal derived surfactant extract did not demonstrate significantly different risks of prespecified primary outcomes: mortality at 36 weeks [typical RR 0.81 (95% CI 0.64, 1.03)], chronic lung disease at 36 weeks [typical RR 0.99 (95% CI 0.84, 1.18)], or the combined outcome of mortality or chronic lung disease at 36 weeks [typical RR 0.96 (95% CI 0.82, 1.12)]. There were also no differences in any of the secondary outcomes regarding complications of prematurity between the two surfactant groups with the exception of necrotizing enterocolitis. A decrease in the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis was noted in infants who received protein containing synthetic surfactants compared to animal derived surfactant extract [typical RR 0.60 (95% CI 0.42, 0.86)]. However, this was a secondary outcome in both of the primary studies and there was moderate heterogeneity between the studies.
In two trials of protein containing synthetic surfactants compared to animal derived surfactant extract, no statistically different clinical differences in death and chronic lung disease were noted. In general, clinical outcomes between the two groups were similar. Further well designed studies of adequate size and power will help confirm and refine these findings.
Plain Language Summary
Protein containing synthetic surfactant versus animal derived surfactant extract for the prevention and treatment of respiratory distress syndrome
Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is a significant cause of illness in preterm infants. Respiratory distress syndrome is caused by a deficiency or a dysfunction of the chemicals that line the lung, called pulmonary surfactant. Numerous preparations that contain surfactants of either animal origin or synthetic design have been developed and tested to treat or prevent respiratory distress syndrome. In general, these surfactant preparations have decreased lung rupture (pneumothorax), decreased the risk of dying, and increased the number of survivors without lung damage. From previous research, the surfactants that are obtained from animals seem to have a better effect than the synthetic surfactants. This might be due to the surfactant proteins contained in animal surfactant that are absent in the previously available synthetic surfactants.
Recently developed synthetic surfactant preparations include whole surfactant proteins or parts of the proteins (called peptides) that act like surfactant protein. These preparations have been recently tested in comparison to the animal derived surfactant preparations.
Two recent trials of protein containing synthetic surfactant compared to animal derived surfactant preparations have demonstrated a trend towards decreasing death and decreasing rates of bowel disease (necrotizing enterocolitis), while other clinical outcomes were similar. Further studies will help refine recommendations concerning use of protein containing synthetic surfactants.