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Breast bacteria offer tantalizing clues about health

By Tim Sandle     Apr 6, 2014 in Science
A new study has revealed that the female breast contains a unique population of microbes relative to the rest of the body. The research raises questions about health and disease.
A woman’s breasts contain many types of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus. This has led scientists to speculate as whether the presence of such bacteria might be protective for both mother and child. With lactobacillus, the production of lactic acid makes its environment acidic, which inhibits the growth of some harmful bacteria.
For the study the investigators collected breast tissue from 81 women and undertook analysis. Certain types of bacteria are found in the breasts that are found only in small proportions at other sites in the body. This reflects the fact that breast tissue produces high concentrations of fatty acids, given the special may that the types of bacteria, called proteobacteria, metabolize.
However, the study has also shown that pathogenic forms of Escherichia and Bacillus are common in cancerous breasts. This suggests that there is a link between the types of bacteria found in breasts and a woman’s health.
The study was conducted at the University of Western Ontario and the outcome has been published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The research is headed “Bacterial microbiota of human breast tissue”.
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