One of the most common bacterial infections that pregnant women can suffer is the one that causes group B strep (GBS)which if not treated properly can cause complications, such as premature labor or a neonatal pneumonia. There are antibiotics to fight this infection, but many bacteria are developing resistance to these drugs.
A group of researchers has now found a possible solution to this maternal and child health problem in breast milk. It has long been known that breastfeeding is the best way to feed babies and protect them against different diseases, and these scientists have discovered that certain sugars in breast milk they might as well help prevent infections before the baby is born.
These compounds are the oligosaccharides from human milk (OLM) and they have natural antibacterial effects. As the researchers explain in the article published in ACS Central Science these sugars can stopping a common prenatal infection in human tissues and pregnant miceso in the future they could help avoid premature births or complications without the need to use additional antibiotics.
Antimicrobial effects of sugars in human milk
Steven Townsend, Jennifer Gaddy, and their colleagues had previously examined the antimicrobial effects of OLMs and found that they were able to inhibit the growth of group B streptococcus. in vitro and in certain reproductive cells. But before these compounds can be used to boost available antibiotics or become a new therapeutic option by themselves, researchers must show how sugars function in many tissues and live.
This work could allow these sugars to be used as a viable therapeutic option to treat group B strep infection and prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Therefore, the team wanted to investigate the activity of OLM in GBS infections in pregnant mice and in human tissues. They first analyzed the protective effects of OLMs on GBS-infected human tissue using ex vivo fetal tissues and an organoid model of the vagina. When they added an OLM blend designed to mimic the sugar composition in breast milk, the bacteria were unable to adhere and form colonies. The OLM mixture was then tested in GBS-infected pregnant mice.
Treated mice had a relatively typical level of inflammation, reduced numbers of bacteria in various reproductive tissues, and did not experience preterm deliveries, rupture of membranes, or maternal deaths. Taken together, these results demonstrate that OLMs can have antimicrobial effects without the use of additional antibiotics. The researchers have stated that this work could allow these sugars to be used as a viable therapeutic option to treat GBS infection and prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes.