A protein in mother’s milk protects infants against AIDS

Milk (Credit: northpolemama/flickr)Main Point:

Researchers have found that a protein in mother’s milk gives protection to the infants from AIDS by neutralizing the activity of HIV.

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Previously, it was a kind of mystery that why only 10% or less number of infants suckled by untreated infected mothers of HIV get HIV infection.

“Interestingly, in the absence of antiretroviral prophylaxis, greater than 90% of infants exposed to HIV-1 via breastfeeding remain uninfected, despite daily mucosal exposure to the virus for up to 2 y. Moreover, milk of uninfected women inherently neutralizes HIV-1 and prevents virus transmission in animal models, yet the factor(s) responsible for this anti-HIV activity is not well-defined,” Researchers wrote in the paper.

Now, researchers have found that a protein, namely tenascin-C, disables HIV infection.

This research is interesting as tenascin-C is not an antibody nor had it ever been studied as an antiviral/antimicrobial. This protein is found to be involved in the development of brain of fetus and healing of the wounds.

Tenascin-C protein has been found to be of the right shape to attach itself to the envelope of HIV.

“Tenascin-C, … captures and neutralizes HIV-1 virions via binding to the chemokine coreceptor binding site on the HIV-1 Envelope. This protein has the potential to be developed as a prevention strategy for postnatal and other modes of HIV-1 transmission,” Research noted.


Genevieve G. Fouda et al. (2013). Tenascin-C is an innate broad-spectrum, HIV-1–neutralizing protein in breast milk PNAS DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1307336110

Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is a sort of entrepreneur. He is the author of "Color Atlas of Statistics", and the owner of an Android game "Faily Rocket."