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Pediatr Res. 2000 May;47(5):592-7.

Chemoattractant factors in breast milk from allergic and nonallergic mothers.

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Department of Health and Environment, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping, Sweden.


The allergy-preventing effect of breast-feeding remains controversial, possibly because of individual variations in the composition of the breast milk. Recently, we showed that allergic mothers had higher concentrations of IL-4 and lower concentrations of ovalbumin-specific IgA in their breast milk than nonallergic mothers. The aim of this study was to investigate the concentrations of chemokines and cytokines that are chemotactic to cells involved in allergic reactions in breast milk from allergic and nonallergic mothers. Cytokine and chemokine concentrations were determined with ELISA in colostrum and mature milk samples from 23 mothers with and 25 mothers without atopic symptoms. IL-8 was detected in all milk samples. RANTES (regulated on activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted), eotaxin, and IL-16 were detected in 50%, 76%, and 48%, respectively, in colostrum and less commonly in mature milk. Macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha, however, could not be detected in any of the samples. The concentrations of IL-8 and RANTES were higher in breast milk from allergic, compared with nonallergic, mothers. In conclusion, the presence of chemoattractant factors in breast milk may be responsible for the traffic of leukocytes from the maternal circulation to the breast milk. The higher concentrations of RANTES and IL-8 in allergic mothers may partly explain the controversy regarding the protective effect of breast-feeding against the development of allergy by stronger chemotaxis and activation of cells involved in allergic diseases, and possibly by elevated IgE production.

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