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Sugars In Breast Milk May Replace Antibiotics That Help Treat Infections In Newborns

Sugars In Breast Milk May Treat Infections In Newborns

Group B Streptococcus are bacteria that come and go naturally in the body, which can cause serious illness in people of all ages. But breast milk can reduce this risk.

You must have heard that breastfeeding your child for at least six months after being born can be extremely beneficial. Well, it is one of the best ways to ensure that the child is healthy. But breast milk could even protect your baby from infections as it is full of healthy ingredients. Several studies have found that babies who are breastfed their baby for at least six months are less likely to suffer from diarrhoea and sickness, cold and flu, and more. Now, a new study has found that breast milk contains compounds that can help prevent the onset of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections in newborns.

What IS GBS Infection?

GBS infections are a common cause of blood infections, meningitis, and stillbirth in infants. Antibiotics may treat and prevent GBS infections, but the bacterium is becoming increasingly resistant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 2,000 newborns in the United States have GBS each year. Out of these, 4-6 per cent of these infants die due to GBS. The bacteria are frequently passed from mother to infant during labour and delivery.

During labour, an expecting woman who tests positive for GBS is generally given intravenous antibiotics to help avoid early-onset infections that develop during the first week of life. Late-onset infections (which occur between one week and three months after birth) are more common in formula-fed newborns than in breastfed children, suggesting that components in breast milk may help protect against GBS.

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Compounds In Breast Milk May Help Prevent Infections In Newborns

According to a study conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University in the US, sugars in breast milk can help prevent Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections in human cells and tissues as well as animals. Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), or short strings of sugar molecules prevalent in breast milk, may be able to cure infections in newborns and adults without the need for antibiotics.

Rebecca Moore, a graduate student at the varsity said, 'Our lab has previously shown that mixtures of HMOs isolated from the milk of several different donor mothers have anti-microbial and anti-biofilm activity against GBS. We wanted to jump from these in-vitro studies to see whether HMOs could prevent infections in cells and tissues from a pregnant woman and mice.'

For the study, researchers examined how GBS infection of placental immune cells (called macrophages) and the gestational membrane was affected by a combination of HMOs from various mothers (the sac surrounding the foetus). They found that HMOs were capable of fully inhibiting bacterial growth in both macrophages and membranes.

After examining whether HMOs could prevent a GBS infection or not, they found that HMO therapy can substantially reduce GBS infection in five distinct regions of the reproductive tract. If this is the case, sugars may be able to take the place of antibiotics, which, in addition to destroying beneficial bacteria, are becoming less effective as antibiotic resistance spreads.

(with inputs from IANS)

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