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Sugars From Human Milk Could Help Treat, Prevent Infections In Newborns: Study

Researchers have discovered that human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs)- short strings of sugar molecules abundant in breast milk- can help prevent infections in human cells

Sugars From Human Milk Could Help Treat, Prevent Infections In Newborns: Study

Washington: Bacteria known as group B Streptococcus (GBS) are a common cause of blood infections, meningitis, and stillbirth in newborns. Although GBS infections can often be treated or prevented with antibiotics, the bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant. Now, researchers have discovered that human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs)- short strings of sugar molecules abundant in breast milk- can help prevent GBS infections in human cells and tissues and in mice.

Also Read: “Nutritional Needs Of A Woman Are Higher While Breastfeeding”, Says Expert With Emphasis On A Balanced Diet

Someday, HMOs might be able to replace antibiotics for treating infections in infants and adults, they say. The researchers will present their results at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

ACS Fall 2021 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person August 22-26, and on-demand content will be available August 30-September 30. The meeting features more than 7,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

“Our lab has previously shown that mixtures of HMOs isolated from the milk of several different donor mothers have antimicrobial and antibiofilm activity against GBS,” says Rebecca Moore, who is presenting the work at the meeting.

We wanted to jump from these in vitro studies to see whether HMOs could prevent infections in cells and tissues from a pregnant woman, and in pregnant mice.

Ms Moore is a graduate student in the labs of Steven Townsend, Ph.D., at Vanderbilt University and Jennifer Gaddy, Ph.D., at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2,000 babies in the US get GBS each year, and 4-6 per cent of them die from it. The bacteria are often transferred from mother to baby during labor and delivery.

An expectant mother who tests positive for GBS is usually given intravenous antibiotics during labor to help prevent early-onset infections, which occur during the first week of life. Interestingly, the incidence of late-onset infections (which happen from one week to three months after birth) is higher in formula-fed than breastfed infants, which suggests that factors in breast milk could help protect against GBS.

Also Read: What Is Important For Breastfeeding Mothers In Times Of COVID-19? Dr Shariqua Yunus Of World Food Programme Explains

If so, the sugars could perhaps replace antibiotics, which, in addition to killing beneficial bacteria, are becoming less effective because of the rise in antibiotic resistance. The researchers studied the effects of combined HMOs from several mothers on GBS infection of placental immune cells (called macrophages) and of the gestational membrane (the sac surrounding the fetus).

We found that HMOs were able to completely inhibit bacterial growth in both the macrophages and the membranes, so we very quickly turned to look at a mouse model, Ms Moore says.

They examined whether HMOs could prevent a GBS infection from spreading through the reproductive tract of pregnant mice.

In five different parts of the reproductive tract, we saw significantly decreased GBS infection with HMO treatment, Ms Moore notes.

To figure out which HMOs and other oligosaccharides have these antimicrobial effects and why, the researchers set up an artificial two-species microbiome with GBS and the beneficial Streptococcus salivarius species growing in a tissue culture plate, separated by a semi-permeable membrane.

Then, the researchers added oligosaccharides that are commonly added to infant formula, called galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), which are derived from plants. In the absence of sugar, GBS suppressed the growth of the “good” bacteria, but GOS helped this beneficial species grow.

We concluded that GBS is producing lactic acid that inhibits growth, and then when we add the oligosaccharide, the beneficial species can use it as a food source to overcome this suppression, Ms Moore explains.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first HMOs they’ve tested in the system did not have this effect, but Mr Townsend says it’s likely that one or more of the over 200 unique sugars in human milk will show activity in the artificial microbiome assay. The team plans to find out. The reason HMOs can treat and prevent GBS infection is likely two-fold, the researchers say: They act as an anti-adhesive by preventing pathogens from sticking to tissue surfaces and forming a biofilm, and they could act as a prebiotic by supporting the growth of good bacteria.

HMOs have been around as long as humans have, and bacteria have not figured them out. Presumably, that’s because there are so many in milk, and they’re constantly changing during a baby’s development. But if we could learn more about how they work, it’s possible that we could treat different types of infections with mixtures of HMOs, and maybe one day this could be a substitute for antibiotics in adults, as well as babies, Mr Townsend says.

The researchers acknowledge support and funding from the National Science Foundation. The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people.

The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks, and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted, and most-read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, its CAS division partners with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting, and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Also Read: Why Breastfed Babies Have Improved Immune Systems? Research Reveals

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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World

22,95,44,435Cases
19,20,52,504Active
3,27,83,741Recovered
47,08,190Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 22,95,44,435 and 47,08,190 have died; 19,20,52,504 are active cases and 3,27,83,741 have recovered as on September 22, 2021 at 3:49 am.

India

3,35,31,498 26,964Cases
3,01,9897,586Active
3,27,83,741 34,167Recovered
4,45,768 383Deaths
In India, there are 3,35,31,498 confirmed cases including 4,45,768 deaths. The number of active cases is 3,01,989 and 3,27,83,741 have recovered as on September 22, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,27,629 3,131

44,269 960

63,44,744 4,021

1,38,616 70

Kerala

45,39,926 15,768

1,61,765 5,813

43,54,264 21,367

23,897 214

Karnataka

29,69,361 818

13,769 617

29,17,944 1,414

37,648 21

Tamil Nadu

26,48,688 1,647

16,993 9

25,96,316 1,619

35,379 19

Andhra Pradesh

20,40,708 1,179

13,905 483

20,12,714 1,651

14,089 11

Uttar Pradesh

17,09,693 13

194 0

16,86,612 13

22,887

West Bengal

15,62,710 537

7,741 69

15,36,291 592

18,678 14

Delhi

14,38,556 39

400 21

14,13,071 18

25,085

Odisha

10,21,216 462

4,844 103

10,08,226 560

8,146 5

Chhattisgarh

10,05,120 26

297 0

9,91,260 26

13,563

Rajasthan

9,54,275 12

99 8

9,45,222 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,25,751 14

133 0

8,15,536 14

10,082

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,410 8

90 6

7,81,803 14

10,517

Haryana

7,70,754 8

328 12

7,60,618 20

9,808

Bihar

7,25,907 6

60 9

7,16,188 15

9,659

Telangana

6,63,906 244

4,938 53

6,55,061 296

3,907 1

Punjab

6,01,359 36

304 3

5,84,554 37

16,501 2

Assam

5,98,864 441

5,081 97

5,87,970 338

5,813 6

Jharkhand

3,48,139 14

65 10

3,42,941 4

5,133

Uttarakhand

3,43,405 12

249 18

3,35,765 29

7,391 1

Jammu And Kashmir

3,28,214 145

1,450 11

3,22,345 154

4,419 2

Himachal Pradesh

2,17,403 263

1,715 99

2,12,033 162

3,655 2

Goa

1,75,690 107

886 76

1,71,507 29

3,297 2

Puducherry

1,25,618 101

922 55

1,22,864 46

1,832

Manipur

1,18,870 197

2,174 9

1,14,861 203

1,835 3

Tripura

83,956 51

353 7

82,794 44

809

Mizoram

82,815 1,355

15,363 223

67,184 1,127

268 5

Meghalaya

79,817 150

1,878 18

76,558 167

1,381 1

Chandigarh

65,195 7

44 3

64,333 4

818

Arunachal Pradesh

54,190 64

413 3

53,504 60

273 1

Sikkim

31,014 43

627 27

30,007 70

380

Nagaland

30,959 52

470 3

29,832 46

657 3

Ladakh

20,743 6

144 6

20,392

207

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,670

0 0

10,666

4

Lakshadweep

10,360 1

9 1

10,300

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,607 7

17 4

7,461 3

129

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