Breast milk may fight yeast infection in newborns

May 29, 2001 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Breast milk may fight yeast infection in newborns

A new study finds that breast-fed infants may be at lower risk for infection with Candida albicans, the yeast that causes a painful oral condition known as thrush. About 5% of all newborns experience thrush, a yeast infection characterized by a thick white plaque on the throat and tongue. Low birth weight babies and infants undergoing immune-suppressing treatment are especially vulnerable to the illness.

In the study Ohio researchers collected samples of breast milk from eight donors and diluted the milk to levels as low as 1:1,000. They then observed the activity of various strains of C. albicans during exposure to the breast milk solutions. Breast milk--even at very highly diluted levels--appears to inhibit C. albicans from germinating, literally preventing it from gaining a foothold in human tissue.

Just how breast milk prevents germination remains unclear, but the Ohio researchers believe that a number of different elements may be involved. The finding supports current recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics that breast milk be the primary source of nutrition for newborns.

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