subject: viruses

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...

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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