Human milk oligosaccharides are associated with protection against diarrhea in breast-fed infants

J Pediatr. 2004 Sep;145(3):297-303. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2004.04.054.


Objective: To determine the association between maternal milk levels of 2-linked fucosylated oligosaccharide and prevention of diarrhea as a result of Campylobacter, caliciviruses, and diarrhea of all causes in breast-fed infants.

Study design: Data and banked samples were analyzed from 93 breast-feeding mother-infant pairs who were prospectively studied during 1988-1991 from birth to 2 years with infant feeding and diarrhea data collected weekly; diarrhea was diagnosed by a study physician. Milk samples obtained 1 to 5 weeks postpartum were analyzed for oligosaccharide content. Data were analyzed by Poisson regression.

Results: Total 2-linked fucosyloligosaccharide in maternal milk ranged from 0.8 to 20.8 mmol/L (50%-92% of milk oligosaccharide). Moderate-to-severe diarrhea of all causes (n=77 cases) occurred less often (P=.001) in infants whose milk contained high levels of total 2-linked fucosyloligosaccharide as a percent of milk oligosaccharide. Campylobacter diarrhea (n=31 cases) occurred less often (P=.004) in infants whose mother's milk contained high levels of 2'-FL, a specific 2-linked fucosyloligosaccharide, and calicivirus diarrhea (n=16 cases) occurred less often (P=.012) in infants whose mother's milk contained high levels of lacto-N-difucohexaose (LDFH-I), another 2-linked fucosyloligosaccharide.

Conclusion: This study provides novel evidence suggesting that human milk oligosaccharides are clinically relevant to protection against infant diarrhea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Campylobacter Infections / prevention & control*
  • Data Collection
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / classification
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / microbiology
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / prevention & control*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism
  • Oligosaccharides / therapeutic use*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Oligosaccharides