subject: infant feeding

How Breastfeeding Influences Viral Colonization of the Infant Gut

The human gut microbiome is known to contain a large number of both bacteria and viruses. Viruses are absent from the infant gut at birth but colonize shortly after and can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal disorder. By one month of age, infants can have about a billion viruses per gram of stool, which is similar to the number of viruses present in older children and adults. But there is still a lot researchers don’t know about how viruses colonize the early infant gut to form the virus microbiome, known as the virome. Read More...

SARS-CoV-2 Research Highlights the Importance of Human Milk Immunobiology

Over the last six months, scientists all over the world have put their planned research programs on hold and pivoted to study SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). Milk researchers are no exception. Milk from mothers that have COVID-19, the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2, could be a source of antibodies directed against the virus. Like convalescent plasma (i.e., blood from recovered COVID-19 patients), these maternally-derived antibodies offer potential as a therapeutic to help severely ill patients. But human milk could also contain RNA from SARS-CoV-2, and possibly even infectious viral material. Telling infected mothers to stop nursing “just in case” is not an option, particularly in populations without access to human milk alternatives. There is urgency in identifying both therapeutics to help those with the most severe infections and to establish informed public health policy for nursing mothers that are COVID-19 positive. The vast number of investigators tackling these questions across institutions and countries offers promise that answers will soon be available. Read More...

Malaria Antigens Occur in the Breast Milk of Asymptomatic, Infected Mothers

Malaria Antigens Occur in the Breast Milk of Asymptomatic, Infected Mothers

Malaria still accounts for approximately 435,000 deaths each year, and the substantial majority of these deaths—some 61%—are children under five years of age. Governments of affected countries, international aid organizations and foreign donors put in place various safeguards to reduce the disease rate, including mosquito nets and preventative malaria medicine for children. Yet the World Health Organization bemoans a lack of funding in this space. In 2017, for example, 15.7 million children in the Sahel region in Africa received seasonal malaria prophylaxis, but the paucity of program funding meant that 13.6 million children who could have benefited missed out. Read More...

Older Adult Bone Health Linked to Breast Milk in Infancy

Older Adult Bone Health Linked to Breast Milk in Infancy

Older adults looking to keep their bones strong might turn to a glass of milk with lunch to help meet their daily calcium and vitamin D requirements. New research suggests that older adults interested in healthy bones might also want to find out what they drank for lunch as an infant. Read More...

Feeding Method Affects Human Milk Microbes

Feeding Method Affects Human Milk Microbes

It seems counterintuitive that breastmilk would be anything but sterile—human infants have a naïve and immature immune system and their first food should be free of potential pathogenic organisms, right? But study after study demonstrates that milk indeed contains microbes. Precisely where these microbes originate and how they make their way into human milk, however, is still being worked out. There are two, non-mutually exclusive hypotheses to explain their origins: one argues that milk microbes originate from the mother’s gut and are passed to the mammary gland (entero-mammary translocation) and the other that bacteria from the infant’s oral cavity move back into the mammary gland and influence the types and quantities of bacteria passed via milk (retrograde inoculation). Because not all milk microbes are equally beneficial for the infant, finding support for one or both of these hypotheses offers the potential of modifying the milk microbiome in ways that could improve infant outcomes. Read More...

Healthy Human Infant Gut Microbes Block Cow Milk Allergy in Mice

Healthy Human Infant Gut Microbes Block Cow Milk Allergy in Mice

Proteins in food often suffer from mistaken identity. Instead of being seen as the innocuous food items they are, immune systems instead take these proteins for harmful invaders and mount a response. To understand why some immune systems are sensitized to cow milk protein whereas others have an inappropriate reaction, researchers are turning to gut bacteria. In animal models and in humans, food allergies have been associated with a lack of diversity in gut bacteria species. And specific research on cow’s milk allergy (CMA) suggests that there might be particular species of gut bacteria that can prevent the development of allergy or allow for complete resolution of CMA in late infancy or early childhood. Read More...

Nursing Can Provide Long-lasting Protection against Worm Infection in Mice

Nursing Can Provide Long-lasting Protection against Worm Infection in Mice

Newborn babies lack a fully developed immune system, and the transfer of maternal antibodies and other immune molecules to babies via nursing is particularly important for early immune protection. However, it has so far been unclear whether maternal immune transfer might provide long-lasting immune protection that continues beyond when babies are nursing. Read More...

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

It has been quite an amazing year for milk-related anthropology research. First came a study in the fall of 2018 on barium levels in the molar of a 250,000 year old Neanderthal fossil that demonstrated the child was weaned between two and three years of age, similar to the age of weaning in modern human populations. Using the same methods on even more ancient teeth, a study published this summer found that australopithecines living 2 million years ago likely weaned one to two years later than modern humans. Then in September, an analysis of plaque on several 6,000-year-old human teeth from Great Britain provided the oldest direct evidence of human consumption of cow, sheep, and goat milk. And to end the year comes a study that combines the topics of weaning and dairy agriculture—organic residue analysis on 3,000-year-old ceramic artifacts suspected of being baby bottles found fatty acids unique to ruminant milk fats, demonstrating cow or sheep or goat milks were used as weaning foods for infants and young children after the advent of agriculture. Read More...

Does Human Milk Composition Make the Infant Body Clock Tick?

Does Human Milk Composition Make the Infant Body Clock Tick?

Human beings have internal clocks. Locked in a room with no source of daylight nor regularly scheduled stimulation, our bodies cycle automatically through periods of slightly longer than 24 hours, sleeping and waking more or less as if the sun were rising and falling over a horizon that we could see. But we are not born this way. Instead, infants develop body clocks gradually. Researchers investigating this aspect of development have recently wondered how much human milk contributes to the process, in the knowledge that its levels of nutrients and hormones vary over the course of the day. Read More...

Antibody Type, Specificity, and Source Influence Their Survival in the Infant Gut

Antibody Type, Specificity, and Source Influence Their Survival in the Infant Gut

Maternal antibodies play an important role in protecting newborns from harmful pathogens. Antibodies known as immunoglobulins (Igs) are transferred from the mother’s placenta into the fetus, where they protect the infant while the infant’s immune system is still developing, Human milk also contains many different Igs, such as IgA, IgM, IgG, and secretory forms of IgA and IgM. Consuming human milk provides additional immune protection to infants and has been shown to reduce the risk of infectious diseases. Read More...

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