Friday, August 1, 2014

World Breastfeeding Week 2014: Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal--For Life

                     "But human milk is not simply food.  It is a living tissue,
                      including many substances that affect not only the body's 
                      use of nutrients but also its immune capacity.  Nutrition and
                      immunity are inextricably interwoven in either a healthy or
                      vicious cycle."  by Maureen Minchin, "Breastfeeding Matters:  
                      What we need to know about infant feeding"  1985

As we celebrate another World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I would dedicate my blog this week to discussing why breastfeeding is a health care decision and not a life-style choice.  I feel a cold wind blowing at my back, listening to some younger women involved in breastfeeding advocacy who seem to have forgotten the reason for breastfeeding advocacy or for the existence of the WHO Code.  We have a mountain of medical literature from the 1970's onward that shows the statistical differences in health between breastfeeding (particularly the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months--only breastmilk, no other liquids including water or solid foods) and infant formula feeding.  My focus today will be on 3 patents/applications that are concerned with infant diarrhea and ways to treat it.   Two of those patents use human milk components to treat infant diarrhea.

The first patent I saw that triggered my writings was the following patent filed in 1995.  It was called, "Anti-diarrheic product and method of treating rotavirus-associated infection, patent #5505955 owned by Senomed Inc., Cancer Research Fund of Contra Costa, and John Hopkins University School of Medicine.  The inventors are Jerry A. Peterson, Robert H. Yolken and David S. Newburg.  Both Yolken and Newburg have had funding at various times from Mead Johnson.  The patent states the belief that gastroenteritis and diarrhea are linked to rotavirus infection.  They will be using human milk fat globule to treat this problem.  The patent states,

          "In the US, over 200,000 children under 5 years of age are
           hospitalized each year with acute diarrheal disease.  This results
           in nearly 880,000 in-patient hospital days, over 500 deaths, and
           almost one billion dollars of in-patient costs per year."

And they go on to state,

         "More recently, studies of children living in developing as well as
          developed countries such as Great Britain and the U.S. have shown
          that breastfed infants undergo fewer episodes of gastroenteritis than
          bottlefed infants."

I discovered a patent application filed in 2006 regarding ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions) entitled, "Oral Formulations for enteric disorders and/or rehydration."  The inventors are Frank E Hagie, et al. (all are or have been employed by Ventria Bioscience).  They will be using recombinantly-produced (genetically engineered) human milk proteins  to prevent diarrhea and its recurrence.  These inventors state, 

          "Breast-fed children have a lower incidence of diarrhea, as well
            as other infections.  Breast milk contains a number of innate
           anti-microbial proteins that may play a role in the reduction of
           diarrhea and in the promotion of colonization of the good intestinal
           tract with health or commensal microflora that act as a deterrent
           to ongoing and future diarrhea episodes."

The following patent, entitled, "Use of probiotics and fibers for diarrhea," owned by N.V Nutricia (infant formula company in the Netherlands)and filed in 2008.
This patent will use Lactobacillus rhamnosus (a probiotic derived from the human gut or urine), inulin, and soy polysaccharides to treat diarrhea.  The infant formula industry does recognize the seriousness of infant diarrhea and many infant formula companies have created products specifically designed to treat infant diarrhea.

        "Diarrhoea is a serious public health problem, a significant
         contributor to malnutrition and associated with one-fourth of 
         all deaths in children less than 5 years, especially infants, in 
         developing countries.  Each year diarrhoea causes more than
         1 billion episodes of illness, with a global average of 3 episodes per
         child and nearly 5 million deaths worldwide."

UNICEF more recently wrote the following in regard to breastfeeding and infant morbidity and mortality.

        "The potential impact of optimal breastfeeding practices is 
          especially important in developing country situations with a
          high burden of disease and low access to clean water and
          sanitation.  But non-breastfed children in industralized countries 
          are also at greater risk of dying--a recent study of post-neonatal
          mortality in the United States found a 25% increase in mortality
          among non-breastfed infants.  In the UK Milennium Cohort Survey
          six months of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a 53% 
          decrease in hospital admissions for diarrhoea and a 27% decrease
          in respiratory infections."

So for approximately 20-40 years, researchers and various institutions have recognized the association between diarrhea and how an infant is fed.  Infant diarrhea can cause hospitalizations for dehydration and is known to cause death.  Infant formula has a high solute load in comparison to breastmilk and thus contributes to rapid dehydration in the infant.  Should we not inform the public of this risk?  Is there a principle of the right to informed consent?  Breastfeeding, particularly exclusive breastfeeding, saves infant lives.  Denial of the risks, serves no purpose other than to keep the public misinformed and under the illusion that infant feeding is a balanced choice.
Copyright  2014 Valerie W. McClain

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