subject: viruses

COVID-19 Vaccinated Mothers Transfer Active Antibodies in Milk to Infants

COVID-19 Vaccinated Mothers Transfer Active Antibodies in Milk to Infants

Many U.S. parents breathed a sigh of relief in the fall of 2021 when the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization for anyone five years and older. Although the youngest children are still ineligible for vaccination, infants—who are particularly vulnerable because of their immature immune systems—have access to another source of immune protection: human milk. Read More...

Anti-viral Properties of Human Milk Oligosaccharides

Anti-viral Properties of Human Milk Oligosaccharides

A surge in viral infections this past summer caused more children to be hospitalized than usual, and it’s not all COVID-19. Other respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, have been hitting kids hard, highlighting how vulnerable they can be to viral infections. So it’s a good thing that in addition to providing nutrition, human milk can help protect against these diseases. Sugars called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are abundant in human milk and are one of the human milk components that have been shown to have protective effects against a wide range of pathogens. Read More...

COVID-19-positive Mothers Pass on SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies, but Not Virus, to Infants

COVID-19-positive Mothers Pass on SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies, but  Not Virus, to Infants

The pace of scientific research is usually quite slow; the time frame between applying for financial support to publishing results in scientific journals is measured in years, not months. But that was before SARS-CoV-2. The urgency to understand the who, what, why, when, and how of this novel coronavirus has accelerated the way grant money is distributed, increased scientific collaboration, and loosened requirements on when scientific papers are published online. This change of pace can clearly be seen in human milk research, resulting in a “liquid gold rush” of studies focused on human milk composition and SARS-CoV-2. Read More...

How Breastfeeding Influences Viral Colonization of the Infant Gut

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

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...

Holder Pasteurization Holds Up Well Against Most Germs

Holder Pasteurization Holds Up Well Against Most Germs

There is nothing particularly surprising or complicated about the most common method of making stored milk safer than it would otherwise be. Holder Pasteurization, or HoP, aims to rid milk of potentially harmful germs by heating it to 62.5°C (145°F) for half an hour, and then cooling it back down to room temperature. This method is used by all of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) milk banks, and differs from the high-temperature, short-time (HTST) pasteurization used in the dairy industry. But these days HoP has some newfangled competitors—potential alternatives to the tried and tested method—suggesting that the time is ripe for a full evaluation of HoP’s performance. This article is the first in a series of five on the topic. Starting at the beginning of this in-depth look, how good is HoP at its core mission: keeping pathogens at bay that could, in theory, find their way into milk and make it their home? Read More...

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