Breast milk may protect catching HIV

Breast milk could protect children from virus of AIDS, suggests a new research by University of North Carolina in the US. The mother’s milk had strong anti-viral effect. The research team carried out a study on genetically modified humanised mice which can acquire HIV similarly as humans.

When the genetically modified mice were given the virus in human breast milk, it was found that mice were not infected. Various tests showed that even though some of their offspring acquired HIV virus from breastfeeding, yet their mother’s milk had a strong anti-viral effect.

The research provides significant insight into the amazing ability of breast milk to destroy HIV and prevent its transmission. No child should ever be infected with HIV because it is breastfed.  Breastfeeding provides critical nutrition and protection from other infections, especially where clean water for infant formula is scarce, explained study leader Dr Victor Garcia.

Dr Garcia further stated that by understanding how HIV is transmitted to infants and children regardless of the protective effects of milk will help them close this important door to the spread of Aids. A number of the at-risk breastfed infants did not end up with HIV in spite of long and repetitive exposure.

Lead author Dr Angela Wahl from the University of North Carolina, US, stated these results are highly significant because they show that breast milk can completely block oral transmission of both forms of HIV, namely virus particles and virus-infected cells, which are found in the breast milk of HIV- infected mothers.

This refutes the Trojan horse hypothesis which says that HIV in cells is more stubborn against the body's own innate defences than HIV in virus particles, concluded Dr Wahl. The study findings are published in the online journal Public Library of Science Pathogens.


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