Breast Feeding and Virus Infections

  • David Tyrrell
Part of the Ettore Majorana International Science Series book series (volume 8)


Every student of medicine and biology is told that the composition of milk is perfectly adapted to the nutritional requirements of the young mammal and a well fed animal is in many ways no doubt well able to deal with infections including those due to viruses. Indeed malnutrition is believed to be an important reason for the high mortality from measles and herpes simplex virus infections which occur in certain areas of the world, although this effect is not independent of immune processes since it is probably due in part to the lack of immune response in the undernourished infant. Nevertheless good nutrition does not confer immunity against viruses. In animal husbandry it is well known that animals that are well fed artificially, especially those deprived of colostrum, are prone to scours, that is to gastroenteritis, which we now know is often due to infection with viruses, such as coronaviruses, for example transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) virus of piglets, and rotaviruses of piglets, calves and lambs. In such cases it seems that the colostrum contains antiviral antibodies because the mother has been infected earlier in life, and these confer resistance to infection with these viruses(1). Secretory antibodies are also produced by the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract and clearly have an important role in protecting them against infection, but the infant produces these only later in life and after it has received an antigenic stimulus.


Respiratory Syncytial Virus Breast Milk Rota Virus Antiviral Activity Human Milk 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Tyrrell
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinical Reserach CentreNorthwick Park HospitalHarrowUK

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