Breast milk helps in building the baby's immunity.
It is often recommended that mother's milk should be the first food given to a new-born as it contains all the essential minerals and nutrients that they require for their growth and development. In fact, health experts and organisations around the world advise that a new-born should be fed breast milk at least during the first six months before introducing solid foods to him. Breast milk contains certain antibodies that builds the baby's immune system and helps them fight off viruses and bacteria. A new study, published in the ACS Infectious Diseases journal, has found another unique quality of breast milk. According to a team of chemists from the Vanderbilt University in the United States, some of the carbohydrates that are found in human milk not only have antibacterial properties but they also enhance the effectiveness of the antibacterial proteins present in milk.
In order to understand this, it helps to know that breast milk is a complex blend of fats, proteins and carbohydrates that act as antibodies and make the baby stronger from within. A lot of previous studies have focused on the proteins for their antibacterial properties, but according to the study director Steven Townsend, this is the first study that looked into antibacterial property exhibited by the carbohydrates present in milk.
The main idea behind the research was the growing health concern of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Therefore, the researchers started to look for different ways to fight these infectious bacteria and stumbled upon the case of a particular bacteria called Group B Strep and tried to analyse if pregnant women produce some compounds that can weaken or kill this bacteria, reducing the risk of
infections in the baby.
Instead of examining the proteins, the team looked at the sugars or carbohydrates present in milk. For the study, they sampled collected human milk carbohydrates that are also known as oligosaccharides, from a number of different donors. Later, these samples were profiled them with the help of a mass spectrometry technique that can identify thousands of large biomolecules simultaneously. Then, they added the compounds to strep cultures and observed the result under the microscope. The findings showed that not only do some of these kill the bacteria directly but some of them also physically break down the biofilms that the bacteria form to protect themselves.
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