Human breast milk is known to contain numerous biologically active components which protect breast fed infants against microbes, viruses, and toxins. The purpose of this study was to purify and characterize the breast milk mucin and determine its anti-poxvirus activity. In this study human milk mucin, free of contaminant protein and of sufficient quantity for further analysis, was isolated and purified by Sepharose CL-4B gel filtration and cesiumchloride density-gradient centrifugation. Based on the criteria of size and appearance of the bands and their electrophoretic mobility on sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis, Western blotting together with the amino acid analysis, it is very likely that the human breast milk mucin is MUC1. It was shown that this breast milk mucin inhibits poxvirus activity by 100% using an inhibition assay with a viral concentration of 2.4 million plaque-forming units/ml. As the milk mucin seems to aggregate poxviruses prior to their entry into host cells, it is possible that this mucin may also inhibit other enveloped viruses such as HIV from entry into host cells.

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