UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Can breastfeeding protect against antimicrobial resistance? Nadimpalli, Maya L; Bourke, Claire D; Robertson, Ruairi C; Delarocque-Astagneau, Elisabeth; Manges, Amee R.; Pickering, Amy J


Background: The proportion of infections among young children that are antimicrobial-resistant is increasing across the globe. Newborns may be colonized with enteric antimicrobial-resistant pathogens early in life, which is a risk factor for infection-related morbidity and mortality. Breastfeeding is actively promoted worldwide for its beneficial impacts on newborn health and gut health. However, the role of breastfeeding and human milk components in mitigating young children’s carriage of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes has not been comprehensively explored. Main body: Here, we review how the act of breastfeeding, early breastfeeding, and/or human milk components, such as the milk microbiota, secretory IgA, human milk oligosaccharides, antimicrobial peptides, and microRNA -bearing extracellular vesicles, could play a role in preventing the establishment of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens in young children’s developing gut microbiomes. We describe findings from recent human studies that support this concept. Conclusion: Given the projected rise in global morbidity and mortality that will stem from antimicrobial-resistant infections, identifying behavioral or nutritional interventions that could decrease children’s susceptibility to colonization with antimicrobial-resistant pathogens may be one strategy for protecting their health. We suggest that breastfeeding and human milk supplements deserve greater attention as potential preventive measures in the global effort to combat antimicrobial resistance, particularly in low- and middle-income settings.

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