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Human Milk Oligosaccharides as Promising Antivirals


Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are diverse unconjugated carbohydrates that are highly abundant in human breast milk. These glycans are investigated in the context of exhibiting multiple functions in infant growth and development. They seem to provide protection against infectious diseases, including a number of poorly manageable viral infections. Although the potential mechanism of the HMO antiviral protection is rather broad, much of the current experimental work has focused on studying of HMO antiadhesive properties. HMOs may mimic structures of viral receptors and block adherence to target cells, thus preventing infection. Still, the potential of HMOs as a source for new antiviral drugs is relatively unexploited. This can be partly attributed to the extreme complexity of the virus‐carbohydrate interactions and technical difficulties in HMO isolation, characterization and manufacturing procedures. Fortunately, we are currently entering a period of major technological advances that have enabled deeper insights into carbohydrate mediated viral entry, rational selection of HMOs as anti‐entry inhibitors, and even evaluation of individual synthetic HMO structures. Here, we provide an up‐to‐date review on glycan binding studies for rotaviruses, noroviruses, influenza viruses, and human immunodeficiency viruses. We also discuss the preventive and therapeutic potential of HMOs as anti‐entry inhibitors and address challenges on the route from fundamental studies to clinical trials.

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

Authors:   Vasily Morozov, Grant Hansman, Franz‐Georg Hanisch, Horst Schroten, Clemens Kunz
Journal:   Molecular Nutrition & Food Research
Year:   2018
Pages:   n/a
DOI:   10.1002/mnfr.201700679
Publication date:   16-Jan-2018
Facts, background information, dossiers
  • breast milk
  • antiviral drugs
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