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Oligosaccharides in goats’ milk-based infant formula and their prebiotic and anti-infection properties

  • Andrea Leong (a1), Zhiqian Liu (a2), Hala Almshawit (a1), Bogdan Zisu (a1), Christopher Pillidge (a1), Simone Rochfort (a2) and Harsharn Gill (a1)...


Human milk contains an abundant supply and diverse array of oligosaccharides that are known to impart significant health benefits to the nursing infant including establishment and maintenance of a healthy gut microflora, immune development and protection against gastrointestinal infections. When breastfeeding is not possible or insufficient, infant formulas are commonly used as an alternative. However, limited information is available about the presence of naturally occurring oligosaccharides in these infant formulas and their likely health benefits. The present study examined the presence of naturally occurring oligosaccharides in commercial goats’ milk-based stage 1 and stage 2 infant formulas and their prebiotic and anti-infection properties. LC/MS was used to detect and quantify oligosaccharides and their prebiotic potential was assessed by their ability, at concentrations present in reconstituted ready-to-use infant formula, to promote the growth of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB12, B. longum BB536, Lactobacillus acidophilus 4461 and L. casei 2607 in vitro. For anti-infection properties, the ability of goat milk oligosaccharides to prevent the adhesion of Escherichia coli NCTC 10418 and a Salmonella typhimurium isolate to Caco-2 cells was investigated. The results showed the presence of fourteen quantifiable oligosaccharides in stage 1 and stage 2 goats’ milk-based infant formula. This was similar to the number of oligosaccharides detected in the fresh goats’ milk. Of these, five were structurally similar to those found in human milk. These oligosaccharides were shown to significantly enhance the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli and reduce the adhesion of E. coli NCTC 10418 and S. typhimurium to Caco-2 cells. Together, these results suggest that oligosaccharides naturally present in goats’ milk-based infant formula exhibit strong prebiotic and anti-pathogen adhesion properties and may confer gut health benefits to infants.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: H. Gill, email


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