Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and breastmilk

Like drinking coffee in the morning, I have this addiction to reading Lactnet, a listserve for lactation consultants. Although I still maintain my credentials as an IBCLC, I no longer practice this profession. Lactnet becomes a way of staying in touch with the issues of my profession. Which I guess means I really haven't quit the profession, maybe I am just on hold. One of the issues recently brought up was whether a mother should breastfeed when her milk tests positive for HPV. I am extremely fascinated by testing breastmilk because I think testing for the presence of a disease in human milk can give you a false impression. Since the mammary gland is an antibody factory, a living and dynamic production line designed to build the immune system of the next generation, it would seem logical to assume that one would find various bateria, viruses, fungi, etc. Does that mean that the breastmilk is contaminated? Infant formula would be considered to be contaminated, if it had pathogens in it. But why would we presume to believe that human milk is the same kind of substance as the dead food substance we call, infant formula?
Some years back a research paper was published in the New England Journal of Medicine called, "Treaatment of Skin Papillomas with Topical Alpha-lactalbumin-Oleic Acid. It was a paper co-authored by Catharina Svamborg.
Svamborg has a number of patents on the human milk component, alpha-lactalbumin (HAMLET) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. These patents are owned by various pharmaceutical companies (Swedish, Danish companies). One patent in particular is about the use of the component to treat HPV. There are numerous articles on the web regarding the use of this human milk component to "destroy warts and fight cancer."
It would seem that some health care professionals will be treating HPV with a human milk component. And some health care professionals will be recommending that babies be removed from the breast because of the detection HPV in the breastmilk of the mother. Thus we will harvest human milk for the component to treat HPV but we will discourage women from breastfeeding. It seems to make sense to the health care community but from my perspective is just more nonsense. This is what was done regarding HIV. There are numerous patents on the use of various human milk components to treat HIV/AIDS owned by the infant formula industry (Nestle and Nutricia) and even the US Department of Health. So the belief seems to be that "one" human milk component (protein) can cure a disease but breastfeeding can only mildly protect an infant from pathogens. Of course, this has nothing to do with making money, does it? This is about science and health. I have been told by various people in the breastfeeding community that patents have nothing to do with reality. We don't need to discuss it because it is not about present day reality. So the blinders stay on, women are continually discouraged from breastfeeding because of one reason or another. Meanwhile, the corporate world quietly, legally is planting their "flags" on various proteins made by the human mammary gland. Should we be surprised that fewer women are breastfeeding or breastfeeding exclusively? I guess so. Heaven forbid we open the door to the forbidden topic of patents, and ownership of human milk and its components. Odd this world....
Copyright 2009 Valerie W. McClain

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