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Breast milk battles thrush in infants

A mother's milk may be the best medicine for newborn infants with AIDS.

Human breast milk inhibits the growth of yeast spores, the source of a painful fungal infection of the mouth and throat in infants, according to research presented last week.

Called thrush, the infection affects approximately 5 percent of all newborns. Babies born with compromised immune systems are at much higher risk of developing thrush.

The yeast responsible, Candida albicans, is one of the leading sources of infection in pediatric AIDS, says Annalee S. Lucena of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who presented the work with her colleague Marcia R. Lee. The sprouting fungus burrows into soft tissue, forming white patches at the back of the throat. Nursing becomes painful and babies often stop feeding. "Once these babies have [thrush], there is very little chance of survival," says Lucena.

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