Document Type



Women and Child Health; Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health


Background: Breastfeeding is known to reduce risk of enteropathogen infections, but protection from specific enteropathogens is not well characterized.
Objective: To estimate the association between full breastfeeding (days fed breast milk exclusively or with non-nutritive liquids) and enteropathogen detection.
Design: 2,145 newborns were enrolled in eight sites, of whom 1,712 had breastfeeding and key enteropathogen data through 6 months. We focused on eleven enteropathogens: adenovirus 40/41, norovirus, sapovirus, astrovirus, and rotavirus, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), Campylobacter spp, and typical enteropathogenic E. coli as well as entero-aggregative E. coli, Shigella and Cryptosporidium. Logistic regression was used to estimate the risk of enteropathogen detection in stools and survival analysis to estimate the timing of first detection of an enteropathogen.
Results: Infants with 10% more days of full breastfeeding within the preceding 30 days of a stool sample were less likely to have the three E. Coli and Campylobacter spp detected in their stool (mean odds 0.92-0.99) but equally likely (0.99-1.02) to have the viral pathogens detected in their stool. A 10% longer period of full breastfeeding from birth was associated with later first detection of the three E. Coli, Campylobacter, adenovirus, astrovirus, and rotavirus (mean hazard ratios of 0.52-0.75). The hazards declined and point estimates were not statistically significant at 3 months.
Conclusions: In this large multi-center cohort study, full breastfeeding was associated with lower likelihood of detecting four important enteric pathogens in the first six months of life. These results also show that full breastfeeding is related to delays in the first detection of some bacterial and viral pathogens in the stool. As several of these pathogens are risk factors for poor growth during childhood, this work underscores the importance of exclusive or full breastfeeding during the first six months of life to optimize early health.


Volume, issue, and pagination are not provided by the author/publisher

Publication (Name of Journal)

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.