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Ingredients of human milk 'may safeguard babies from HIV'
An ingredient of human milk could play a part in preventing HIV being transmitted from infected mothers to their babies.
Researchers at the University of California investigated why infants do not develop HIV as a result of breastfeeding even if their mother carries the infection.
Findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a carbohydrate called human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) may be responsible.
Lars Bode, a paediatrics specialist at the university, commented: "HMO act as prebiotics that promote the growth of desirable bacterial communities in the infant's intestine."
Furthermore, he noted that they can function as "decoy" receptors that prevent the binding of pathogens, as well as influence immune cell responses.
Mr Bode added that HIV-infected mothers face a choice "whether or not to breastfeed their babies".
This, he said, is because they could be exposed to the virus if they ingest breast milk, whereas not doing so makes them more vulnerable to various intestinal and respiratory infections.
Posted by Martine Ward
World Congress 2015