Breast Milk, Ebola and Rehydration

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Why breast milk may offer protection against HIV transmission, lessons from past outbreaks of Ebola and the invention of lifesaving rehydration treatment.

In this week’s programme Claudia Hammond looks at research suggesting breast milk may offer protection against HIV transmission from mother to Child. This despite the fact that breast feeding is seen as the main method of transmission of HIV between mother and child. Around 10% of infants with HIV infected mothers will contract HIV through breastfeeding. But why is the infection rate not higher? Factors identified in the milk are thought to convey anti-viral protection. Researchers are looking at ways of developing these into drugs to prevent HIV transmission to infants and possibly adults.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented, occurring on a large scale in an area previously free of the virus. Ebola was first identified in 1976 following a much smaller outbreak in the DRC, we look at the way that outbreak spread and the control measures put in place to prevent it spreading further. Key to this was how the dead were dealt with. The bodies of Ebola victims are highly infections, yet funeral practices often involve ritualised close contact, as a form of respect. We look at the difficulties of trying to encourage a change to these practices to prevent further deaths.

Oral rehydration salts have saved countless lives. This simple medicine for treating diarrhoea and dehydration was first trialled during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. Cholera spread rapidly through refugee camps. Rehydration salts proved effective in treating many and are still valuable today.

Image: A woman breastfeeding. Credit: Getty

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29 minutes

Last on

Sun 10 Aug 2014 04:32 GMT