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Tired of Taking Antibiotics? Sugars in Breast Milk May Protect You Against Bacterial Infections, Says New Study

According to the data by Center for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial resistance to antibiotics causes about 23,000 deaths annually

  • Bacterial resistance to antibiotics causes more about 23,000 deaths annually.
  • Breast milk helps newborns fight bacterial infections
  • Researchers discover natural sugars that can reduce human dependence on antibiotics

Washington DC, August 22, 2017 : Newborns and infants are highly susceptible to bacterial infections and diseases. In the face of medical challenges, young mothers tend to look for remedies that cater to the problem with the least possible side-effects. In a latest study by a Washington DC University, it has been revealed that the mother’s milk consists of a unique blend of fats, proteins, and sugars that help protect babies against bacterial infection.

As per the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, mother’s milk is supposed to be the only nutrition for a newborn for the first six months.

Breastfeeding is one of the key phases to nurture a newborn. Combined with antibodies and nutrients, the practice is not only beneficial to the baby but for the mothers as well.

Breast milk addresses a multitude of problems and diseases in children,

  • Lowers risk of allergies and asthma
  • Reduces respiratory illnesses and chances of diarrhea.

Apart from these, researches have not revealed that it also helps babies fight against bacterial infections.

ALSO READ: What Mothers are Complaining about this World Breastfeeding Week 2017

An interdisciplinary team of doctors and chemists at the Vanderbilt University have discovered that carbohydrates in a mother’s milk possess a complex blend of antibacterial properties. Additionally, the research also revealed that apart from their own qualities, the presence of these carbohydrates also enhances the efficacy of antibacterial proteins present in the milk.

Calling it an example of a comprehensive antimicrobial action by the carbohydrates present in the mother’s milk,  according to Steven Townsend, the director of the study, “One of the remarkable properties of these compounds is that they are clearly non-toxic, unlike most antibiotics”, as per a report by ANI.

According to the data by Center for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial resistance to antibiotics causes about 23,000 deaths annually.

Additionally researchers asserted that pregnant women are the most common hosts to group B strep bacteria, which cause severe infections in newborns. These infections often lead to pneumonia or sepsis, and in extreme cases death due to the absence of properly developed defense mechanisms in newborns.

However, group B strep bacteria rarely infect babies.

This motivated the researches to undertake a research to address the growing number of deaths and to probe whether the mother’s milk contains specific protective compounds that fight these bacteria in babies.

Previously, it was believed by biochemists that proteins are the most important followed by carbohydrates. “Far less is known about the function of sugars, and as a trained glycoprotein chemist, I wanted to explore their role,” asserted Townsend.

The Research

For the research, the carbohydrate in human milk, also known as oligosaccharides, was collected from different donor samples. The samples were then summarized with a mass spectrometry technique that is used to identify large biomolecules. The obtained compound was then added to strep cultures which were then observed using a microscope.

The study showed that the sugars found in breast milk in such cases can act as anti-biofilms agents. To put it simply, the researchers observed that the sugars not only sensitized the target bacteria but also killed them. Some of the oligosaccharides directly fought the infecting bacteria. Additionally the carbohydrate compounds also broke down the biofilms that the bacteria form to protect themselves.

ALSO READ: World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016 Focuses on Using Antibiotics with Care

It ha been revealed that these powerful sugars can potentially become part of an antibacterial treatment for adults and infants alike, thus reducing our dependence on artificially produced antibiotics.

This study has been published and is now a part of the ACS Infectious Diseases journal.


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