Breast milk strengthens the child’s immune system and supports the intestinal flora. This is generally known. But it was previously unknown what molecular mechanisms behind this phenomenon are and why this is not possible in the same way with bottle feeding.
Maike Willers, Hannover Medical School, Germany, Thomas Ulas, University of Bann, Germany, and colleagues have studied the composition of stool samples from infants at different timepoints over the first year of life. The team investigated their effect on the development of the intestinal flora and the intestinal mucosa. Additionally, the children were followed for 2.5 years, and anthropometric data and medical information on infections were collected.
They found that alarmins (S100A8 and S100A9) are proteins in breast milk that prevent dangerous intestinal colonization disorders that can lead to blood poisoning and intestinal inflammation. The post-natal intestinal immune system, i.e., the intestinal flora and mucosa, matures through interaction with microbes in the gut. Alarmines control this adaptation process by building up an optimal bacterial diversity that lasts a lifetime and protects against diseases.
The birth process plays a role in this process: Infants born by cesarean section have lower amounts of alarmins than vaginally born babies. In addition, premature babies are less capable of producing alarmins themselves than fully-grown infants. Such individuals are more susceptible to chronic inflammatory diseases.
Supplementation with this protein could support the development of newborns who do not produce enough alarmin or do not get enough with breast milk. This could prevent several long-term conditions associated with intestinal colonization disorders, such as chronic inflammation of the intestines and obesity, the researchers said.
- S100A8 and S100A9 are Important for Postnatal Development of Gut Microbiota and Immune System in Mice and Infants,
Maike Willers, Thomas Ulas, Lena Völlger, Thomas Vogl4, Anna S. Heinemann, Sabine Pirr, Julia Pagel, Beate Fehlhaber, Olga Halle, Jennifer Schöning, Sabine Schreek, Ulrike Löber, Morgan Essex, Peter Hombach, Simon Graspeuntner, Marijana Basic, Andre Bleich, Katja Cloppenborg-Schmidt, Sven Künzel, Danny Jonigk, Jan Rupp, Gesine Hansen, Reinhold Förster, John F. Baines, Christoph Härtel, Joachim L. Schultze, Sofia K. Forslund, Johannes Roth, Dorothee Viemann,
Also of Interest
Nursing, Gut Bacteria, and the Immune System