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Infectious lactational mastitis: Insights into breast milk microbiome

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In this infographic we look at some exciting discoveries which have truly change our understanding of maternal breast health.

There can be little argument that breastfeeding is the best source of early nutrition for babies. This unique matrix of essential nutrients, immune complexes and growth factors make breast milk the most complete form of nutrition for human infants. However, did you know that breast milk, once considered to be completely sterile, is also an important source of commensal bacteria? Recent studies have shown that breast milk provides essential probiotic bacteria required to colonise the infant gut, as well as influence normal gastrointestinal function and immune system maturation. These same probiotics are also important for breast health. In fact, any disturbance to mammary bacterial balance puts breastfeeding mothers at a greater risk of developing infectious lactational mastitis.

Studies have shown that the oral administration of certain strains of probiotics have effectively treated lactational mastitis and appears to be a worthwhile consideration to prevention and treatment.

The discovery of the entero-mammary pathway, a unique biological transport route, allows for the safe transfer of specific bacterial species from the maternal gut to the breast tissue and ultimately to breast milk and the infant gut.


  1. Jimenez E, Fernandez L, Maldonado A, et al. Oral administration of Lactobacillus strains isolated from breast milk as an alternative for the treatment of infectious mastitis during lactation. Appl Environ Microbiol 2008;74(15):4650-4655. [Full text]
  2. Scott JA, Robertson M, Fitzpatrick J, et al. Occurence of lactational mastitis and medical management: a prospective cohort study in Glasgow. Int Breastfeed J 2008;3:21. [Full text]
  3. Fernandez L, Langa S, Martin V, et al. The human milk microbiota: origin and potential roles in health and disease. Pharmacolog Res 2013;69:1-10. [Abstract]
  4. Fernandez L, Arroyo R, Espinosa I, et al. Probiotics for human lactational mastitis. Beneficial Microbes 2014;5(2):169-183. [Abstract]
  5. Arroyo R, Martin V, Maldonado A, etal. Treatment of infectious mastitis during lactation: antibiotics versus oral administration of lactobacilli isolated from breast milk. Clin Infect Dis 2010;50(12):1551-1558. [Full text]
  6. Heikkila MP, Sais PEJ. Inhibition of Staphylococcus aureus by the commensal bacteria of human milk. J App Microbiology 2003;95:471-478. [Abstract]
  7. Jahanfar S, Ng CJ, Teng CL. Antibiotics for mastitis in breastfeeding women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;2:CD005458. [Abstract]
Related Reading
Female Microbiome Initiatives - Women & their Microbes

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Melissa Lee
Melissa is a designer turned nutritionist, who has combined the two modalities to create purposeful designs for various health publications and websites. Having initially studied Multimedia Systems Design, she then went on to complete a BHSc in Nutritional Medicine which led to her involvement in the integrative medicine industry and eventually to FX Medicine.