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Immune Factors in Breast Milk and the Development of Atopic Disease

Iyengar, Shuba R.*; Walker, W.A.

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: December 2012 - Volume 55 - Issue 6 - p 641–647
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e3182617a9d
Invited Review

ABSTRACT: Breast-feeding provides protection against infections and contains numerous factors that modulate and promote the development of the infant immune system. These factors include secretory IgA, antimicrobial proteins like CD14, cytokines, and fatty acids. Studies examining the role of breast-feeding in the development of allergic disease in infants demonstrate potentially protective as well as neutral or nonprotective effects, likely due to the heterogeneity in their study design. In this overview, we explore the potential role of immune factors in the breast milk, as well as selected probiotics, in the development of allergy.

*Pediatric Allergy/Immunology Division

Mucosal Immunology Laboratory, Pediatric Gastroenterology, Department of Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Department of Nutrition, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Shuba R. Iyengar, MD, MPH, Department of Pediatrics, Pediatric Allergy/Immunology and Pulmonary, 175 Cambridge St, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02141 (e-mail:

Received 26 September, 2011

Accepted 23 May, 2012

W.A.W. is a recipient of a research grant from Mead Johnson Nutrition and receives funding from the National Institutes of Health (Grants RO1-HD12437, R01-HD012437 P01-DK033506 and P30-DK040561; R01-HD059126). W.A.W. has acted as a scientific consultant to infant formula companies. S.R.I. reports no conflicts of interest.

Copyright 2012 by ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN