subject: infant health

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...

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...

Human Milk and Saliva Synergize to Shape the Infant Oral Microbiome

Human Milk and Saliva Synergize to Shape the Infant Oral Microbiome

Parents of infants spend a good deal of time wiping up their baby’s drool but probably don’t give a second thought to the important ingredients that drool may contain. Lucky for them, a team of researchers from Australia happily collected and analyzed baby saliva in an effort to identify compounds that may influence the growth of bacterial communities in the infant’s mouth and, subsequently, the rest of their gastrointestinal tract. Read More...

Breastfeeding May Help Protect Babies from Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Breastfeeding May Help Protect Babies from Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics poses a major challenge to global public health. Babies lack a fully developed immune system and gut microbiome, and are particularly susceptible to infections by resistant bacteria. More than 200,000 infants are estimated to die every year due to septic infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Read More...

Looks Can Be Deceiving: Similar Gut Bacteria Have Different Functions in Breast-Fed and Formula-Fed Infants

Looks Can Be Deceiving: Similar Gut Bacteria Have Different Functions in Breast-Fed and Formula-Fed Infants

Infant formula manufacturers are faced with an extremely difficult task: they must transform cow or plant-based milks into a liquid that mimics human milk. This mimicry involves more than just copying human milk’s ingredient list, however. Formula must also match human milk in performance, an especially difficult endeavor when considering many components are highly complex and specific to human milk. Read More...

Human Milk’s Lutein Content Adds to the Evidence for Breastfeeding

Human Milk’s Lutein Content Adds to the Evidence for Breastfeeding

Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are crucial components of a healthy diet, but few have heard of lutein, a substance that is structurally similar to vitamin A and found in spinach and kale. Because the human body cannot make lutein, the amount that one swallows determines how much is available to protect the skin from ultraviolet light, lower the risk of some cancers, and—if relevant—moderate the progression of atherosclerosis. There is also mounting evidence that lutein is important in fetal and infant development. Fetuses and infants receive lutein directly from their mother—via blood that passes through the placenta, and by consuming human milk. Read More...

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