Research in recent years has demonstrated that HMOs play a contributory role in protecting infants from disease in developing countries – the evidence is rudimentary, according to Andrew Prentice in this presentation, but promising. He looks closely at babies in low and middle-income countries and compares their growth patterns with those in developed countries. Two recent studies demonstrate that growth achieved was directly attributable to the number of HMOs found in the mother’s milk.
The presentation looks at the effect of the changing seasons in African countries on HMOs, as well as the differences seen in key HMOs between sick and healthy children in the cohorts. There is a proven global variation in the breastmilk microbiome. Andrew Prentice notes that milk is not only there to nourish and protect the baby, but the milk is also there to protect the breast itself, which is important for the immune constituents of breastmilk. This immunity is passed on to the infant in the vital first 1000 days of life. There is much research still to be done in this area.