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Antibacterial effect of human milk for common causes of paediatric conjunctivitis
  1. Justin T L Baynham1,
  2. M Allison Moorman2,
  3. Catherine Donnellan3,
  4. Vicky Cevallos3,
  5. Jeremy D Keenan1,3
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
  2. 2Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
  3. 3Francis I. Proctor Foundation, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jeremy D Keenan, Francis I Proctor Foundation, University of California, 513 Parnassus Avenue, Box 0412, San Francisco, CA 94143-0412, USA; jeremy.keenan{at}

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The use of human milk in the treatment of ocular surface disease is documented in ancient Egyptian, Indian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine texts.1 Galen recommended human milk specifically for conjunctivitis.1 Ocular application of human milk continues today in the developing world, and is recommended in widely distributed parenting guidebooks. Despite these endorsements, the antibacterial activity of topically applied breast milk has not been adequately studied. In this report, we assess the inhibitory effects of human breast milk against common ocular pathogens.


Mothers attending routine outpatient paediatric visits at the University of California, San Francisco, donated milk samples for this study. Subjects with known immunodeficiency, systemic infection or antibiotic use within 2 weeks were excluded. Milk samples were stored at 4°C; the samples were tested within 6 h of collection, or frozen for later testing.

We tested several reference strains of bacteria from the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC): …

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  • Contributors JTLB, VC and JDK designed the study. MAM collected the milk specimens. JTLB, CD and VC performed the microbiology experiments. JTLB and JDK analysed the data. JTLB wrote the first draft of the manuscript. JTLB, MAM, CD, VC and JDK critically revised the manuscript. All authors approved of the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by a career development award from Research to Prevent Blindness (JDK).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval University of California, San Francisco Committee on Human Research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.