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Emerg Infect Dis. 2003 May;9(5):545-51.

Human milk secretory antibodies against attaching and effacing Escherichia coli antigens.

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Pediatric Infectious Diseases Division, Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas-Houston Medical School, 6431 Fannin, Houston, TX 77040, USA.


Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) is a primary factor responsible for preventing attachment of enteropathogens to gut epithelium in breastfeeding infants. We compared the frequency of sIgA to major surface antigens of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) in milk of 123 women from the United States and Mexico to determine whether regional differences existed in the frequency of antibodies to these surface antigens. In both groups of women, milk commonly has sIgA against various EHEC lipopolysaccharides, EspA, EspB, intimin, and less frequently against Shiga toxin. The study suggests that persons living in the United States are exposed to attaching/effacing enteropathogens more frequently than is generally assumed. The low frequency of antibodies to Stx1 (in 12% of Mexican and in 22% of U.S. samples) suggests that the rare appearance of hemolytic uremic syndrome in adults is not due to neutralization of toxin at the gut level. Only anti-EspA is found in most milk samples from both populations of women. EspA may represent a useful target for an immunization strategy to prevent EHEC disease in humans.

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