Breast milk is amazing. It is the perfect food for a growing human. It’s common knowledge that breast milk protects babies from getting sick. New research conducted at Vanderbilt University has confirmed that the carbohydrates in breast milk are antibacterial, in addition to the already known proteins.
Infection Control Today explains about this new study:
Mother’s milk, which consists of a complex and continually changing blend of proteins, fats and sugars, helps protect babies against bacterial infections. In the past, scientists have concentrated their search for the source of its antibacterial properties on the proteins it contains. However, an interdisciplinary team of chemists and doctors at Vanderbilt University have discovered that some of the carbohydrates in human milk not only possess antibacterial properties of their own but also enhance the effectiveness of the antibacterial proteins also present.
“This is the first example of generalized, antimicrobial activity on the part of the carbohydrates in human milk,” said Assistant Professor of Chemistry Steven Townsend, who directed the study. “One of the remarkable properties of these compounds is that they are clearly non-toxic, unlike most antibiotics.”1)http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2017/08/sugars-in-human-mothers-milk-are-new-class-of-antibacterial-agents.aspx
The study was motivated by the growing reality of antibiotic resistance.
The carbohydrates in mother’s milk are called oligosaccharides. Researchers exposed the human milk oligosaccharides to group B strep cultures. Under microscopes, they saw, “That not only do some of these oligosaccharides kill the bacteria directly but some also physically break down the biofilms that the bacteria form to protect themselves.”2)http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2017/08/sugars-in-human-mothers-milk-are-new-class-of-antibacterial-agents.aspx
Could human breast milk be used to develop new antibiotics?
In addition to strep, researchers have also found human milk to be effective against other prominent hospital infections.
“Our results show that these sugars have a one-two punch,” said Townsend. “First, they sensitize the target bacteria and then they kill them. Biologist sometimes call this ‘synthetic lethality’ and there is a major push to develop new antimicrobial drugs with this capability.”3)http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2017/08/sugars-in-human-mothers-milk-are-new-class-of-antibacterial-agents.aspx
Breastfeeding has many benefits for mothers and babies. Research confirms what mothers around the world for countless generations have known that breast milk protects our babies. Nature provides the perfect protection and nourishment. Perhaps one-day human milk oligosaccharides will be used to protect us beyond the breastfeeding years.
Image: badarsk / Pixabay
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