Chr Hansen sees interest in bacteria to reduce infant mortality

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish food ingredients maker Chr. Hansen is in discussions with companies over using probiotic bacteria to reduce the risk of a deadly stomach disease among premature babies.

An independent study by the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne has shown that daily intake of a mix of three of Chr. Hansen's probiotic strains more than halved the risk among premature babies of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) compared with infants that received a placebo.

The study was conducted on 1,100 children.

"We are in dialogue with potential customers about products which addresses NEC directly," Christian Barker, Executive Vice President of Chr. Hansen's Health & Nutrition Division, told Reuters.

He declined to reveal which companies are involved in the talks.

Chr. Hansen makes cultures, colors and enzymes and has food producers like Danone and Nestle as major customers.

Shares in Chr. Hansen are up about 10 percent this year underperforming some of its closest peers including Archer Daniels Midland and Kerry Group which are up respectively 47 and 22 percent this year.

(Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Simon Johnson)