A new class of antimicrobial found in human mother’s milk

Contributed by Nguyet Kong

A study from Vanderbilt University found that mothers milk doesn’t just give babies nutrients, but the sugars help protects them from bacterial infections, making this a new class of antimicrobial. Mother’s milk is consisting of different protein, fats, and sugars. This study has discovered that some carbohydrates possess antibacterial properties that are non-toxic.

The results were presented at the American Chemical Society in Washington DC on August 20th. The group started to look at different ways to defeat bacterial infections, and not look at the protein but look at the role and functions of the sugars, which is less known. The researchers collected human milk carbohydrates, also known as oligosaccharides, and profiled them using mass spectrometry. Then added the compounds to strep cultures to observe the outcome. They have found the sugars from the five samples produce a different outcome from killing the entire strep colony to breaking down the biofilm layer the bacteria produced to protect themselves. Also, the study shows that the milk sugar antimicrobial activity extends to other bacterial infections.



Dorothy L. Ackerman, Ryan S. Doster, Jörn-Hendrik Weitkamp, David M. Aronoff, Jennifer A. Gaddy, Steven D. Townsend. Human Milk Oligosaccharides Exhibit Antimicrobial and Antibiofilm Properties against Group B Streptococcus. ACS Infectious Diseases, 2017; 3 (8): 595 DOI: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.7b00064

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