Human milk oligosaccharides are detected in utero: new opportunities for these naturally-occurring prebiotics to impact infant and maternal health

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Einerhand Science & Innovation BV

HMOs are complex carbohydrates that act as natural prebiotics (1, 2). Already around 1930, human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) were identified as the most important bifidogenic factor in human milk (3).

Accumulating scientific evidence suggests that exposure to HMOs after birth has both immediate as well as long-term consequences to infant health and development. HMOs serve as prebiotic substrates for specific microbes, contributing to the colonization the infant’s gastro-intestinal tract. In addition, HMOs act as soluble decoy receptors that block the attachment of viral, bacterial or other pathogens to epithelial cell surface receptors, which may help prevent infectious diseases in the gut, and in the respiratory and urinary tracts. Lastly, HMOs are antimicrobials and immune-modulators by altering host epithelial and immune cell responses with potential benefits for the neonate. Thus after birth, HMOs play important roles by shaping the infant gut microbiome, modulating enteric infections or necrotizing enterocolitis, and protecting the newborn (4-6). HMOs potentially also impact non-communicable diseases like asthma, allergies and obesit ...