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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Apr;987:199-206.

The transfer of immunity from mother to child.

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Department of Clinical Immunology, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden.


The newborn's immune system grows fast from a small size at birth by exposure primarily to the intestinal microflora normally obtained from the mother at and after birth. While building up its immune system, the infant is supported by the transplacental IgG antibodies, which also contain anti-idiotypic antibodies, possibly also actively priming the offspring. The second mode of transfer of immunity occurs via the milk. Numerous major protective components, including secretory IgA (SIgA) antibodies and lactoferrin, are present. The breastfed infant is better protected against numerous common infections than the non-breastfed. Breastfeeding also seems to actively stimulate the infant's immune system by anti-idiotypes, uptake of milk lymphocytes, cytokines, etc. Therefore, the breastfed child continues to be better protected against various infections for some years. Vaccine responses are also often enhanced in breastfed infants. Long-lasting protection against certain immunological diseases such as allergies and celiac disease is also noted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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