Premature babies face a host of respiratory, neurological and digestive problems because their organs didn't have enough time to develop inside the womb. One of the most dangerous conditions is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening inflammatory bowel disorder that develops in about 10 percent of preterm infants. NEC has a mortality rate between 30 and 50 percent, and babies who do survive can suffer from long-term problems with nutrition, growth and neurodevelopmental disorders, including a higher risk for cerebral palsy. The specific cause of NEC is unknown, but scientists do know that bacteria living in the intestine play an important role. A healthy gut contains a mix of microbes that aid in digestion and help the immune system. In a full-term baby, the first bacterial colonies are provided by the mother, but in premature infants the intestine-and its microbial community-hasn't had a chance to fully develop.