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Arch Pediatr. 2012 Mar;19(3):305-12. doi: 10.1016/j.arcped.2011.12.002. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

[Cow's milk protein allergy through human milk].

[Article in French]

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Service de gastroentérologie, hépatologie et nutrition pédiatriques, hospices civils de Lyon, hôpital Femme-Mère-Enfant, CHU de Lyon, 59, boulevard Pinel, 69677 Bron, France.


Cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA) is the first allergy that affects infants. In this population, the incidence rate reaches 7.5%. The multiplicity and aspecificity of the symptoms makes its diagnosis sometimes complicated, especially in the delayed type (gastrointestinal, dermatological, and cutaneous). CMPA symptoms can develop in exclusively breastfed infants with an incidence rate of 0.5%. It, therefore, raises questions about sensitization to cow's milk proteins through breast milk. Transfer of native bovine proteins such as β-lactoglobulin into the breast milk is controversial: some authors have found bovine proteins in human milk but others point to cross-reactivity between human milk proteins and cow's milk proteins. However, it seems that a small percentage of dietary proteins can resist digestion and become potentially allergenic. Moreover, some authors suspect the transfer of some of these dietary proteins from the maternal bloodstream to breast milk, but the mechanisms governing sensitization are still being studied. Theoretically, CMPA diagnosis is based on clinical observations, prick-test or patch-test results, and cow's milk-specific IgE antibody concentration. A positive food challenge test usually confirms the diagnosis. No laboratory test is available to make a certain diagnosis, but the detection of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) in the mother's milk, for example, seems to be advantageous since it is linked to CMA. Excluding cow's milk from the mother's diet is the only cure when she still wants to breastfeed. Usually, cow's milk proteins are reintroduced after 6 months of exclusion. Indeed, the prognosis for infants is very good: 80% acquire a tolerance before the age of 3 or 4 years. Mothers should not avoid dairy products during pregnancy and breastfeeding as preventive measures against allergy.

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