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Protein in Mothers' Milk May Protect Babies Against HIV

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

Hundreds of thousands of children become infected with the AIDS virus every year. There boys and girls are born to mothers who have HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. The children become infected during pregnancy or from breastfeeding.

Recently, scientists identified a protein in breast milk that suppresses the virus. Now, experts say the discovery could lead to new ways to protect babies whose mothers are infected with HIV.

Doctors reduced the number of infections by giving antiretroviral drugs to both mothers and their babies. But experts say that even without anti-AIDS drugs, only a small percentage of babies become infected through breast milk.

VOA Learning English Health Report
Sallie Permar is a professor of pediatrics and immunology at Duke University in North Carolina. She says infected women who breastfeed can expose babies to the virus repeatedly. Yet only 10 percent of those babies will become infected.

Professor Permar led an effort to identify a substance in breast milk that may protect babies from infection.
Her team studied to a protein called Tenacin-C, also called TNC. It is known to be involved in the process of healing wounds. The researchers exposed the TNC protein from breast milk of uninfected women to HIV. The protein linked up to the virus and made it harmless.

Professor Permar and her team suggest the TNC could be used in places where costly drug treatments are often not available.

She suggests that this natural part of human milk could be given to babies before breastfeeding to provide more protection. The team reported its findings in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.

For VOA Special English, I'm Laurel Bowman

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