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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Jul;78(14):4763-70. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00477-12. Epub 2012 May 4.

Human milk oligosaccharides promote the growth of staphylococci.

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Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID, USA.


Human milk oligosaccharides (HMO), which constitute a major component of human milk, promote the growth of particular bacterial species in the infant's gastrointestinal tract. We hypothesized that HMO also interact with the bacterial communities present in human milk. To test this hypothesis, two experiments were conducted. First, milk samples were collected from healthy women (n = 16); culture-independent analysis of the bacterial communities was performed, HMO content was analyzed, and the relation between these factors was investigated. A positive correlation was observed between the relative abundance of Staphylococcus and total HMO content (r = 0.66). In a follow-up study, we conducted a series of in vitro growth curve experiments utilizing Staphylococcus aureus or Staphylococcus epidermidis and HMO isolated from human milk. HMO exhibited stimulatory effects on bacterial growth under various nutritional conditions. Analysis of culture supernatants from these experiments revealed that HMO did not measurably disappear from the culture medium, indicating that the growth-enhancing effects were not a result of bacterial metabolism of the HMO. Instead, stimulation of growth caused greater utilization of amino acids in minimal medium. Collectively, the data provide evidence that HMO may promote the growth of Staphylococcus species in the lactating mammary gland.

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