Compound found in breast milk that helps children to defeat pathogenic bacteria

A new research paper on the positive aspects of breastfeeding has been published in scientific reports. This study has shown that breast milk can help the baby to resist the infectious effects of bacteria and can contribute to the reproduction and flourishing of beneficial bacteria.

According to researchers, it is the high level of glycerol monolaurate (GML), more than 200 times higher than that found in cow’s milk, that can provide such benefits, explains Donald Lung, a professor of pediatrics and senior author of the study. This is what can be called the “perfect antibiotic”: it is a compound that, unlike antibiotics, can strongly fight bacterial infections but does not kill useful bacteria, as explained by Patrick Schlivert, professor of microbiology and immunology and the first author of the study.

GML in this sense is very selective: it only fights harmful and pathogenic bacteria and at the same time allows others, especially the intestine and body, to thrive. In addition, the same compound can reduce inflammation of epithelial cells, which are the basis of the lining of the intestine and mucous membrane. It is this inflammation that can give freedom to both bacterial and viral infections.

In order to use these properties, this compound can be produced in the laboratory and added to cow’s milk so that it can be enjoyed even by newborns who are not breastfed.

Schlivert himself talks about the big and potential benefits that such a “supplement” could bring to the health of children around the world, including because it would be relatively easy and cheap to produce the same “artificial” GML.

Kelly Owen

Kelly majored in English Literature and is responsible for assisting in proofreading, editing and research, as well as for web design and the maintenance of this website. Beyond her outstanding writing skills, she has like the rest of us a passion for science and science reporting. She is an avid reader of many scientific journals and magazines, especially Scientific American. In her spare time she also enjoys reading fiction and hopes to complete her own novel in 2020.
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Kelly Owen