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Kent Willis, an assistant professor of neonatology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, cares for preterm babies as a neonatologist. Most of these preterm infants, particularly the smallest and sickest who require oxygen to help them breathe, are at high risk of developing lung inflammation and scarring.


This early damage leads to a chronic lung disease called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, one of the most severe and long-lasting complications of preterm birth. The oxygen and breathing machines that are essential for keeping these babies alive also increase the likelihood of developing the condition.

A recently discovered connection between gut microbes and lung health is leading to improved knowledge of many pulmonary conditions. In an article for The Conversation, Willis describes his research into the role prenatal antibiotics may play in newborns’ lung inflammation. Read the full article on The Conversation.


UT is a member of The Conversation, an independent source for news articles and informed analysis written by the academic community and edited by journalists for the general public. Through our partnership, we seek to provide a better understanding of the important work of our faculty.


Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,