Background: The relationship between the development of allergy during infancy and breast-feeding remains controversial. This controversy may be due to individual variations in the composition of human milk. Antibodies to food antigens to which the mother is commonly exposed are present in the milk, but their relationship to allergy is still unknown. IgA antibodies to inhalant allergens have not been previously detected.
Objective: Our purpose was to analyze secretory IgA antibody levels to cat, β-lactoglobulin, and ovalbumin allergens in colostrum and mature milk in relation to maternal allergy.
Methods: Colostrum and samples of mature milk were obtained after 1 and 3 months of lactation from 53 nursing mothers (17 allergic and 36 nonallergic mothers) and were analyzed for total secretory IgA levels by ELISA and secretory IgA antibodies to cat, β-lactoglobulin, and ovalbumin by an enzyme-amplified ELISA. The specificity of the assays was confirmed by inhibition experiments.
Results: Secretory IgA to cat, β-lactoglobulin, and ovalbumin allergens were detected in colostrum as well as mature milk. The levels of secretory IgA to ovalbumin were lower in colostrum from allergic mothers with P = .016, whereas the levels to β-lactoglobulin and cat were similar in the 2 groups. IgA antibodies to ovalbumin were detected in 94% of the colostrum samples from allergic and in all samples from nonallergic mothers, in 82% and 96%, respectively at 1 month, and 53% and 65% at 3 months. Fewer samples had detectable secretory IgA antibodies to β-lactoglobulin than to ovalbumin and cat, and only 33% and 10% of the samples from the allergic and nonallergic mothers, respectively, remained positive at 3 months. All the allergic mothers had detectable IgA to cat in colostrum, whereas 83% and 73% of the samples were positive at 1 and 3 months. The corresponding numbers were 93%, 81%, and 81% in the nonallergic mothers (not significant).
Conclusion: Even a low level of exposure of the mucosa (eg, by inhalant allergens) can induce antibody secretion into the milk, both in allergic and nonallergic mothers. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000;105:1236-40.)
2000. Vol. 105, no 6 part 1, 1236-1240 p.