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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) — Is breast milk the key in the battle against HIV?
According to a study published in PLoS Pathogens, researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that mice would not contract HIV through virus-tainted human breast milk. In fact, the breast milk killed the virus. The mice used in the study were previously injected with human cells to reconstitute their bodies.
“The results of these experiments highlight the potent HIV inhibitory activity of normal human breast milk and demonstrate that the in vitro HIV inhibitory activity of human breast milk is also capable of efficiently preventing oral transmission of cell-free HIV,” the study said.
The study is hoping to show that it is safe for an HIV-positive woman who is taking antiretrovirals to breastfeed her baby, despite being told for years not to breastfeed if infected.
“[O]ur results highlight the protective role of human breast milk against HIV transmission and suggest that components in both the skim milk and lipid fractions may contribute to its HIV inhibitory activity.”
Dr. Viktor Garcia, senior author of the study, said in a press release that this study will help “close this important door to the spread of AIDS.”
“No child should ever be infected with HIV because it is breastfed. Breastfeeding provides critical nutrition and protection from other infections, especially where clean water for infant formula is scarce,” Garcia said in a press release to UNC’s School of Medicine. “Understanding how HIV is transmitted to infants and children despite the protective effects of milk will help us close this important door to the spread of AIDS.”