1. Lavigne, Mark C. PhD
  2. Curd, David T. MS
  3. Kaplan, Hilton M. MBBCh, FCSSA, PhD


Successful enteral feeding depends on patent enteral feeding tubes to permit trouble-free entry of nutritional formula into the alimentary tract. However, tube clogs can be a challenging complication of enteral feeding. This report addresses questions about using a papain-based enzyme solution to unclog enteral feeding tubes, including any effects that papain may have on patients and if solution use should be contraindicated in patients on ketogenic diets. The gastrointestinal tract is not permissive for significant papain activity and papain absorbed into the blood would likely be neutralized by antiproteases. In vitro examinations do not suggest toxic effects of papain in vivo, and those recognized in the latter setting are due to papain loads that exceed those used to unclog enteral feeding tubes. Allergies to papain occur infrequently and are probably attributable to an immunoglobulin E-mediated reaction to this enzyme. Although the amount of carbohydrate consumed upon single use of the unclogging solution is very low, a provider should decide whether using the papain-based enzyme solution for enteral feeding purposes is appropriate in patients who practice ketogenic diets. The benefits of using the papain-based enzyme solution to unclog enteral feeding tubes appear to outweigh any risks associated with its use.