Donated human milk could be antibiotic for infants: UCalgary

Research out of the University of Calgary (UCalgary) is aiming to find out if milk produced by humans could be used as an antibiotic for infants.

Dr. Merilee Brockway, assistant professor at the Nursing Faculty at UCalgary, says the Human Milk Banking Association Association of North America (HMBANA) provides donor human milk in Alberta and Canada, which is the standard practice for sick and preterm infants.

“So pretty much any baby born in Alberta will get that as part of their care when they’re in hospital — and most of Canada as well,” Dr. Brockway said. “So what I’m looking at is providing donor human milk to infants outside of the preterm context in the full term context who have experienced adverse exposures to their microbiome, usually in the birthing process.”

She adds the microbiome can be affected if the infants are born via C-section, or have exposures to antibiotics. However, the donor human milk could be a solution.

“And so we’re looking at the use of donor human milk, which is kind of like a prebiotic, probiotic, and postbiotic in one perfect package, to see if giving that instead of formula supplementation, if they need to be supplemented, can have meaningful impacts on their microbiome,” Brockway said.

“And then longer term, what does that mean for child health outcomes?”

She says Calgary has the only community-based milk bank in Canada — NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank.


“What that means is they can give their milk to any hospital across Canada, and currently they’ve donated it up to 26 hospitals.”

Brockway adds they partner with this community based milk bank for their research.

“They provide the donor human milk, which I do pay for through my research funds, but it’s still available for us to use for research purposes,” Brockway said.

“And in turn, I also work with them to help advise them on research if they have questions that come up that they want answered, then we work together to evaluate those questions and investigate them. So, it’s a really nice community-based research partnership.”

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