Late-onset sepsis is a big medical challenge for babies born prematurely. Unfortunately, about ten percent of infants born preterm experience late-onset sepsis and 30 percent to 50 percent of those who develop the infections die. Researchers have found that a molecule called epidermal growth factor, found in breast milk, could be critical for preventing and treating this condition.
How does it work? Breast milk activates receptors on intestinal cells and keeps dangerous bacteria from migrating from the gut to the bloodstream. The researchers from Washington University in St. Louis used newborn mice to test their theory and found that type of breast milk was also highly influential. Breast milk from the earliest days of lactation following birth contained higher levels of this epidermal growth factor and was more effective for preventing sepsis.
This discovery could be an effective and simple solution for preventing sepsis in babies born prematurely across the world. Ensuring these babies are fed with breast milk sources from donors in the earliest days of lactation could be critical for saving these babies’ lives.