Breastfeeding stimulates total and cow's milk-specific salivary IgA in infants

Laura Piirainen, Jouni Pesola, Ilkka Pesola, Jorma Komulainen, Outi Vaarala
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 2009, 20 (3): 295-8
Breastfeeding may increase the rate of mucosal maturation and IgA production. We sought to determine the effect of breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding on the maturation of oral mucosa by measuring the salivary total antibodies and cow's milk protein-specific IgA. Fifty-eight saliva samples were collected from 39 healthy, full term infants. At the age of 3 months (n = 25) eight infants received only breast milk and seventeen formula (cow's milk based n = 10, hydrolysed n = 7) and breast milk; and at the age of 6 months (n = 33) eleven received breast milk, seventeen formula and breast milk and five were not breastfed any more (cow's milk based n = 14, hydrolysed n = 8). Total IgA, IgG, IgM and protein, and beta-lactoglobulin specific IgA were measured from saliva with enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA). The antibody results were proportioned to total protein. No differences in antibody levels between the feeding groups were found at 3 months of age. At 6 months, total IgA, total IgM and beta-lactoglobulin-specific IgA were higher among the breastfed infants compared to those receiving formula as supplement to breast milk or not breastfed any more (breast milk vs. any formula p = 0.029, p = 0.015, p = 0.058; breast milk vs. cow's milk formula p = 0.025, p = 0.044, p = 0.038). To conclude, breastfeeding stimulated the mucosal immune system to produce IgA to saliva, which is a marker for immunological maturation and likely provides protection against environmental antigens.

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