Antibodies isolated from infected mothers' breast milk can inhibit
the virus that causes AIDS, says a new discovery.
HIV-1 can be transmitted from mother to child via breastfeeding,
posing a challenge for safe infant feeding practices in areas of
high HIV-1 prevalence. But only one in 10 HIV-infected nursing
mothers is known to pass the virus to their infants.
"That is remarkable, because nursing children are exposed multiple
times each day during their first year of life," said senior
author Sallie Permar, assistant professor of paediatrics and
infectious diseases at Duke University Medical Centre (DUMC).
"We are asking if there is an immune response that protects 90
percent of infants, and could we harness that response to develop
immune system prophylaxis (protection) during breastfeeding for
mothers infected with HIV-1," Permar, who led the study, was
quoted as saying in the journal Public library of Science.
"Our work helped establish that these B-cells in breast milk can
produce HIV-neutralizing antibodies, so enhancing the response or
getting more mucosal B-cells to produce those helpful antibodies
would be useful, and this is a possible route to explore for HIV-1
vaccine development," Permar said, according to a university
"This is important work that seeks to understand what a vaccine
must do to protect babies from mucosal transmission during
breastfeeding," said Barton Haynes, M.D., study co-author and a
national leader in AIDS/HIV research who is also director of the
Intre for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI), as well as director
of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI).
"The antibodies isolated are the first HIV antibodies isolated
from breast milk that react with the HIV-1 envelope, and it
important to understand how they work to attack HIV-1," added