Breast Milk Antibodies Fight HIV

The anti-HIV antibodies from mothers carrying HIV could be used to help develop a vaccine.

By | May 30, 2012

image: Breast Milk Antibodies Fight HIV Flickr, Christy Scherrer

FLICKR, CHRISTY SCHERRER

HIV can be transmitted to a child via breastfeeding, but despite this chronic, daily exposure to the virus through breast milk, only 1 in 10 HIV-infected nursing mothers passes the virus to her infant. Scientists now think they know why: antibodies from B cells in mother’s milk neutralize HIV-1, the most common strain of the virus, according to research published earlier this month (May 18) in PLoS One.

Researchers from Duke University isolated B cells from the breast milk of an HIV-infected lactating woman in Malawi 3 days after the birth of her child. They identified two antibodies, CH07 and CH08, that bind and neutralize HIV-1.

The finding could help researchers design an HIV-1 vaccine, the authors said. "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," author Sallie Permar, an assistant professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Duke, said in a press release.

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