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J Nutr. 2008 Sep;138(9):1801S-1806S.

Antiinfective properties of human milk.

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Department of Neonatology and Neonatal Intensive Care, Spedali Civili, 25123 Brescia, Italy.


The unfavorable effects of neonatal immunodeficiency are limited by some naturally occurring compensatory mechanisms, such as the introduction of protective and immunological components of human milk in the infant. Breast-feeding maintains the maternal-fetal immunological link after birth, may favor the transmission of immunocompetence from the mother to her infant, and is considered an important contributory factor to the neonatal immune defense system during a delicate and crucial period for immune development. Several studies have reported that breast-feeding, because of the antimicrobial activity against several viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, may reduce the incidence of infection in infants. The protection from infections may be ensured either passively by factors with antiinfective, hormonal, enzymatic, trophic, and bioactive activity present in breast milk, or through a modulator effect on the neonatal immune system exerted by cells, cytokines, and other immune agents in human milk.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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