Why is human milk thought to be protective against necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)?

Updated: Dec 27, 2017
  • Author: Shelley C Springer, JD, MD, MSc, MBA, FAAP; Chief Editor: Muhammad Aslam, MD  more...
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Experimental and epidemiologic studies have noted that feeding with human milk has a protective effect; however, donor human milk that has been pasteurized is not as protective. Human milk contains secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), which binds to the intestinal luminal cells and prohibits bacterial transmural translocation. Other constituents of human milk, such as IL-10, EGF, TGF-β1, and erythropoietin, may also play a major role in mediating the inflammatory response. Oligofructose encourages replication of bifidobacteria and inhibits colonization with lactose-fermenting organisms.

Human milk has been found to contain PAF acetylhydrolase, which metabolizes PAF; preterm human milk has higher PAF acetylhydrolase activity (as much as 5 times greater in one study [12] ) than milk collected from women who delivered at term.

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