The combination of beneficial bacteria transmitted from breast milk changes significantly over time, the researchers report.
This bacterial cocktail could act as a daily boost for infants ’immunity and metabolism.
Research published in Boundaries in microbiology, has important implications for the development and health of infants.
Researchers have discovered a number of types of microbiome that have never been previously identified in breast milk. Until now, relatively little was known about the role of microbiome bacteria in breast milk. These bacteria are thought to protect the gastrointestinal tract of newborns and improve aspects of long-term health, such as allergy prevention.
“Some of the bacterial species we observed in breast milk samples had a common function in destroying foreign substances or xenobiotics and could play a role in protecting against toxins and contaminants,” says co-author Emmanuel Gonzalez, a bioinformatics specialist at McGill University.
To learn more about the microbiome of human milk, the scientists analyzed breast milk samples using high-resolution imaging technology, originally pioneered by McGill and the University of Montreal to detect bacteria on the International Space Station.
They analyzed breast milk samples from mothers who live in eight remote rural communities in the western highlands of Guatemala. This gave them a unique window to observe the microbiome of human milk over time, especially between early and late lactation (6-46 days versus 109-184 days).
Almost all mothers of mothers Breastfeed within the period recommended by the World Health Organization of six months. In North America, only 26% of mothers do so. “This longer feeding time has allowed us to spot important changes in infant bacteria over time, which could affect our health in the long run,” Gonzalez says.
The genomic technology used by the scientists revealed a number of types of microbiomes that are shared between mothers and mothers, providing insight into the diverse community of bacteria that are transmitted to newborns.
“Studying the microbiome of different communities is important to understand the variations present in humans,” says co-author Kristine Koski, an associate professor at the McGill School of Human Nutrition. “Most microbiome studies in human milk have been conducted with mothers from high-income countries, creating an incomplete picture of important bacteria that are transmitted to infants during early development.”
Collaboration with underrepresented communities will be crucial to obtaining an accurate picture of the microbiome of human milk and the factors that shape it, according to scientists. They hope that these findings will help encourage more comprehensive and stronger research.
Source: McGill University