Soy isoflavone may inhibit common gastrointestinal illness in infants

Sep 06, 2007

The soy isoflavone genistin--at concentrations present in soy infant formula-- may reduce a baby’s susceptibility to rotavirus infections by as much as 74 percent, according to a University of Illinois study published in September’s Journal of Nutrition.

“Rotavirus is the primary cause of diarrhea in infants, affecting virtually all children before age five. In the United States, it mainly leads to dehydration, doctor’s visits, and parents missing work to care for sick children. In developing countries, though, rotavirus causes approximately 611,000 deaths each year,” said Sharon Donovan, the Melissa M. Noel Professor of Nutrition at the U of I.

Although rotavirus vaccines have recently become available, they are expensive and cannot be given to some infants, she said.

“It’s exciting to think that the isoflavones in soy formula could be a cost-effective nutritional approach to decreasing the incidence and severity of rotavirus infections, especially among children in developing countries who are most at risk,” said the scientist of her work with doctoral candidate Aline Andres, who conducted the experiments.

In the study, cells in culture were exposed to rotavirus in the absence or presence of soy isoflavones, biologically active compounds in soy that are thought to have health benefits. Soy contains a number of different forms of isoflavones, and all were tested individually and as the complete mixture present in infant formula.

“Genistin and the mixture significantly reduced rotavirus infectivity by 33 to 74 percent,” she said. “But when genistin was taken out of the mixture, anti-rotavirus activity was lost, suggesting that it is the active component in reducing infectivity.”

Donovan focused her investigation on the isoflavone concentrations present in soy formula. That was the concentration at which rotavirus inhibition began to occur and then leveled off, indicating that there’s an effective range, and beyond that, there is no additional inhibition or toxicity.

“We then exposed the cells to different concentrations of rotavirus. If an infant had a severe infection or was exposed to a lot of rotavirus, we wondered if the isoflavones would still be as effective,” she said.

The inhibition held up across a 16-fold range of rotavirus exposure. “Even at the highest concentration of rotavirus particles, genistin or the mix of isoflavones inhibited infectivity,” said Donovan.

Genistin appeared to diminish infectivity by inhibiting binding of the virus to tissue-culture cells, she said.

Donovan’s laboratory soon plans to begin studies with neonatal piglets, an excellent model for studying rotavirus infection and the nutritional effects of various components on the intestine.

“We’ll be interested to see if we have the same results when we work with young animals,” she said.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Explore further: US health officials perplexed by vaccination skeptics

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Living in the genetic comfort zone

6 hours ago

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external ...

'Bright spot' on Ceres has dimmer companion

8 hours ago

Dwarf planet Ceres continues to puzzle scientists as NASA's Dawn spacecraft gets closer to being captured into orbit around the object. The latest images from Dawn, taken nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) ...

Key facts on US 'open Internet' regulation

8 hours ago

A landmark ruling by the US Federal Communications Commission seeks to enshrine the notion of an "open Internet," or "net neutrality." Here are key points:

Spotify deals with random shuffle and we mortals

8 hours ago

How do we mortals perceive random sequences? An entry in the question-and-answer site Quora focused on a question involving a music-streaming service Spotify. That question signifies how we perceive what ...

Recommended for you

Twitter helps smokers kick the habit, study finds

4 hours ago

When subjects in a smoking cessation program tweet each other regularly, they're more successful at kicking the habit, according to a study by UC Irvine and Stanford University researchers. Specifically, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.