Human milk and two infant formula feeds were tested for antiviral and antibacterial activity before being given to 21 low birthweight (LBW) infants; neither was present. When samples were aspirated from the stomachs of the infants within one to three hours of feeding, however, they reduced titres of enveloped virus and also killed both Staphylococcus epidermidis and Escherichia coli. The lipid fraction of the gastric aspirate from an infant who had been given human milk as well as those from four infants who had been given a conventional LBW infant formula feed, showed antiviral and antibacterial activities at least equal to the activities of the unfractionated aspirates. There was no consistent difference in antiviral or antibacterial activity of either the stomach aspirates or the lipid fractions of these aspirates between infants given human milk and those given formula feeds. The antiviral and antibacterial activities of the gastric aspirates seem to result from intragastric production of monoglycerides and fatty acids from the triglyceride content of the ingested feeds.
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