A Compound In Human Breast Milk Fights Off Pathogenic Bacteria

A compound in human breast milk can fight infections caused by harmful bacteria without affecting beneficial bacteria, adding to evidence that breast milk is good for babies’ health, a new us study says.


Researchers at the national jewish medical research center and the university of Iowa, among others, found that human breast milk contains about 200 times the amount of monoglyceride laurate found in cow’s milk. The paper appears in a new issue of the British journal scientific reports.

Monoglyceride laurate is a compound found naturally in nature. While identifying high levels of monoglyceride laurate in human breast milk, the researchers also found that human breast milk inhibited the growth of disease-causing bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus, bacillus subtilis and clostridium perfringens. In addition, breast-fed babies had higher levels of beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus.

When the researchers removed the monoglyceride laurate from human breast milk, they found that it lost its ability to fight staphylococcus aureus, and that cow milk also gained its ability to fight bacteria.


The study also found that laurate monoglyceride inhibits inflammation in epithelial cells. Epithelial cells are mainly distributed in the intestinal tract and some other mucosal surface layer, and inflammation can cause damage to epithelial cells, which may lead to the invasion of bacteria and viruses.

The researchers say the study adds to new evidence that breast milk is good for infant health. Treating bacterial infections in infants with antibiotics kills both pathogenic and beneficial bacteria. In comparison, the monoglyceride laurate found in breast milk is more selective, fighting only infections caused by harmful bacteria.