Breastfeeding protects against acute gastroenteritis due to rotavirus in infants


To assess whether breastfeeding protects against acute gastroenteritis (AGE) due to rotavirus (RV) infection compared to RV-negative AGE (RV−) in children age 0–12 months. Data from a community-based study of children with AGE from 30 pediatric practices in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria were evaluated. A case–control design was conducted with RV-positive AGE (RV+) cases and RV− AGE as controls. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were estimated using log-linear regression models adjusting for child’s age, family size, number of siblings, child care attendance, and nationality. A total of 1,256 stool samples were collected from infants with AGE; 315 (25%) were RV+ and 941 RV−. Being breastfed in the period of disease inception reduced the risk of AGE due to RV+ (OR, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.37–0.76). In infants 0–6 months of age, the protective effect was stronger (OR, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.19–0.55) than in 7–12-month-old children. Our study adds to the evidence of a protective concurrent effect of breastfeeding against rotavirus infection in infants, particularly in children 6 months and younger. Breastfeeding is important to diminish rotavirus-related gastroenteritis in infants before vaccination can be introduced.

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Acute gastrointestinal enteritis


Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


Immunoglobulin A


Odds ratio

95% CI:

95% confidence interval


Rotavirus negative


Rotavirus positive


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This study was sponsored by Wyeth-Pharma, Münster, Germany. We thank Saroochi Agarwal, Alycia Albergottie, Kesinee Hanjangsit, and Olurinde Oni for editing previous versions of this manuscript. We are obliged to patients and parents who consented to take part in this study and the helpful cooperation of practice assistant, without whom this study would not have been feasible.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Wilfried Karmaus.

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Plenge-Bönig, A., Soto-Ramírez, N., Karmaus, W. et al. Breastfeeding protects against acute gastroenteritis due to rotavirus in infants. Eur J Pediatr 169, 1471–1476 (2010).

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  • Acute gastroenteritis
  • Breastfeeding
  • Rotavirus
  • Infants