Immune components in human milk are associated with early infant immunological health outcomes: A prospective three-country analysis

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Abstract

The role of breastfeeding in improving allergy outcomes in early childhood is still unclear. Evidence suggests that immune mediators in human milk (HM) play a critical role in infant immune maturation as well as protection against atopy/allergy development. We investigated relationships between levels of immune mediators in colostrum and mature milk and infant outcomes in the first year of life. In a large prospective study of 398 pregnant/lactating women in the United Kingdom, Russia and Italy, colostrum and mature human milk (HM) samples were analysed for immune active molecules. Statistical analyses used models adjusting for the site of collection, colostrum collection time, parity and maternal atopic status. Preliminary univariate analysis showed detectable interleukin (IL) 2 and IL13 in HM to be associated with less eczema. This finding was further confirmed in multivariate analysis, with detectable HM IL13 showing protective effect OR 0.18 (95% CI 0.04–0.92). In contrast, a higher risk of eczema was associated with higher HM concentrations of transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) 2 OR 1.04 (95% CI 1.01–1.06) per ng/mL. Parental-reported food allergy was reported less often when IL13 was detectable in colostrum OR 0.10 (95% CI 0.01–0.83). HM hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) was protective for common cold incidence at 12 months OR 0.19 (95% CI 0.04–0.92) per ng/mL. Data from this study suggests that differences in the individual immune composition of HM may have an influence on early life infant health outcomes. Increased TGFβ2 levels in HM are associated with a higher incidence of reported eczema, with detectable IL13 in colostrum showing protective effects for food allergy and sensitization. HGF shows some protective effect on common cold incidence at one year of age. Future studies should be focused on maternal genotype, human milk microbiome and diet influence on human milk immune composition and both short- and long-term health outcomes in the infant.

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Munblit, D., Treneva, M., Peroni, D. G., Colicino, S., Chow, L. Y., Dissanayeke, S., … Warner, J. O. (2017). Immune components in human milk are associated with early infant immunological health outcomes: A prospective three-country analysis. Nutrients, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9060532

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