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Breast milk may inhibit thrush

07/03/2001

Breast milk possesses antifungal properties that may protect infants from infection by the opportunistic yeast that causes thrush, according to a study conducted by Miami University microbiology graduate student Annalee Lucena.

Caused by the common yeast Candida albicans, thrush (oral candidiasis) is an infection characterized by a thick white plaque on the throat and tongue. Affecting approximately five percent of newborns, the incidence among nursing infants is lower than among non-nursing infants.

Lucena’s study showed that breast milk prevented C. albicans from forming germ tubes, the invasive growth form of the budding yeast. The breast milk, provided by local donors, inhibited this germination even when diluted 100-fold or when frozen and then thawed.

According to Marcia Lee, Lucena’s adviser and associate professor of microbiology, "since candidiasis is the most common fungal oral-gastrointestinal disease in HIV-infected infants and children, this research may provide information for the development of novel, non-drug, inexpensive antifungal strategies in pediatric AIDS."

Lee’s research explores the potential of other natural immune factors, such as antibodies and lactoferrin present in breast milk, to inhibit the transformation of C. albicans to its invasive form.

This study is supported by a grant from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Emily Goll, senior microbiology and clinical laboratory science major, is a Miami University undergraduate summer scholar also participating in the breast milk study.

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