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Acta Paediatr Scand. 1987 Jul;76(4):592-8.

The nutritional role of breast-milk IgA and lactoferrin.


The nutritional enigma concerning the extent to which breast-milk immune proteins are digested has been investigated by measuring the intakes and faecal outputs of IgA and lactoferrin over 7 days in 10 exclusively breast-fed (BF) and 9 formula-fed (FF) fullterm infants at 6 and 12 weeks post-partum. BF outputs (mg/day) greatly exceeded FF values (p less than 0.001): at 6 weeks secretory-IgA BF = 160 +/- 28, FF = 14 +/- 2, lactoferrin BF = 14 +/- 2, FF = 0.9 +/- 0.1; at 12 weeks secretory-IgA BF = 94 +/- 17, FF = 25 +/- 5, lactoferrin BF = 7 +/- 1, FF = 1 +/- 0.3. Secretory-IgA represented 42% and 27% of BF faecal protein at 6 and 12 weeks compared with 6% for FF infants at both ages. BF secretory-IgA outputs were highly correlated with intakes (r = 0.83, p less than 0.001). IgA and lactoferrin outputs and the presence of faecal secretory-IgA fragments in BF and FF infants were influenced by defaecation rate, suggesting that partial degradation occurred in the large intestine. By 6 weeks post-partum only 1% lactoferrin and 17% secretory-IgA intakes appeared in the faeces and 95% breast-milk protein could be regarded as nutritionally available. The elevated BF outputs of IgA and lactoferrin relative to endogenous excretion suggest, however, that breast-milk may still make a considerable contribution to intestinal defence mechanisms after the neonatal period despite the small proportion of daily intake which escapes digestion. The protective action of IgA and lactoferrin may also depend on their site of degradation and the nature of fragments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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