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New breast milk clue to antimicrobials

Monday August 21st, 2017

Oligosaccharides contained in breast milk have antibacterial properties - and are non-toxic, researchers reported last night.

The sugars also enhanced the effectiveness of proteins with antibacterial properties, also found in breast milk, according to the researchers.

The findings were reported to the conference of the American Chemical Society in Washington DC, USA, yesterday.

The researchers tested the oligosaccharides in the laboratory against streptococcus bacteria.

They found that some broke down bacterial biofilm while others destroyed bacteria.

Researcher Professor Steven Townsend, of Vanderbilt University, New York, USA, said: "This is the first example of generalised, antimicrobial activity on the part of the carbohydrates in human milk.

"One of the remarkable properties of these compounds is that they are clearly non-toxic, unlike most antibiotics."

He added: "For most of the last century, biochemists have argued that proteins are most important and sugars are an afterthought. Most people have bought into that argument, even though there's no data to support it.

"Far less is known about the function of sugars and, as a trained glycoprotein chemist, I wanted to explore their role."

Human Milk Oligosaccharides Exhibit Antimicrobial and Anti-Biofilm Properties Against Group B. Streptococcus ACS Infectious Diseases 1 June 2017

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | North America | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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