Intestinal mucus protects Giardia lamblia from killing by human milk

J Protozool. 1987 Feb;34(1):22-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1550-7408.1987.tb03124.x.


We have previously shown that nonimmune human milk kills Giardia lamblia trophozoites in vitro. Killing requires a bile salt and the activity of the milk bile salt-stimulated lipase. We now show that human small-intestinal mucus protects trophozoites from killing by milk. Parasite survival increased with mucus concentration, but protection was overcome during longer incubation times or with greater milk concentrations. Trophozoites preincubated with mucus and then washed were not protected. Protective activity was associated with non-mucin CsCl density gradient fractions. Moreover, it was heat-stable, non-dialyzable, and non-lipid. Whereas whole mucus inhibited milk lipolytic activity, protective mucus fractions did not inhibit the enzyme. Furthermore, mucus partially protected G. lamblia trophozoites against the toxicity of oleic acid, a fatty acid which is released from milk triglycerides by lipase. These studies show that mucus protects G. lamblia both by inhibiting lipase activity and by decreasing the toxicity of products of lipolysis. The ability of mucus to protect G. lamblia from toxic lipolytic products may help to promote intestinal colonization by this parasite.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholic Acids / pharmacology
  • Giardia / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Secretions / parasitology
  • Intestinal Secretions / physiology*
  • Lipase / metabolism
  • Lipolysis
  • Milk, Human / enzymology
  • Milk, Human / physiology*
  • Mucus / parasitology
  • Mucus / physiology*
  • Oleic Acid
  • Oleic Acids / pharmacology


  • Cholic Acids
  • Oleic Acids
  • Oleic Acid
  • Lipase