Immunology of human breast milk: a comparison of immune factors in banked and fresh milk

Paramasivam, Komathi (2006) Immunology of human breast milk: a comparison of immune factors in banked and fresh milk. (MSc(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


Human milk is bodily fluid which has proven to contain a variety of immune components such as antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, antimicrobial compounds and specific immune cells. Breast feeding has been shown to enhance the development of the immune system of the newborn as well as provide protection against enteric and respiratory infections. Excess milk can be donated by mothers to milk banks which extend these donations to infants who are deprived of breast milk for various reasons. The milk is pasteurised to extend the storage life and to prevent transmission of infection. Little is known about the impact of this heat treatment on the immune and nutritional components, and the main aim is to investigate the impact of pasteurization on these components. The concentrations of TGF-beta (Transforming Growth Factor), IL1 (interleukin1), IL10 (interleukin 10), RANTES (Regulated on activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted/CCL5), IL8 (interleukin 8), IL6 (interleukin 6) and sIL6 receptor were measured by ELISA in both fresh and banked milk. Significant differences were observed in the concentrations of RANTES: fresh breast milk (1548 +/- 373 pg/ml, n=31, p = 0.001), banked samples (875 +/- 1181 pg/ml, n = 4, P = 0.001). Similar differences were observed for TGF-beta between fresh milk samples (8047 +/- 4350 pg/ml, n = 31, P = 0.018) and banked samples (198 9 +/- 321 pg/ml, n = 4, P = 0.018). The fresh samples showed higher concentrations present when compared with the banked samples. Soluble IL6 receptor level was greatly reduced to a level of no detection in banked milk (24033 +/- 14125 pg/ml, n=20, p=0.04).No IL1 was detected in any of the banked samples, with an average of 1 pg/ml in the fresh samples. No significant difference between levels of IL10 in fresh and banked samples was observed. However, IL8 levels were significantly reduced in banked samples (167 +/- 99 pg/ml, n=20, p=0.004) when compared to the fresh samples (1056 +/- 493 pg/ml, n=20, p= 0.004). These results suggest that pasteurisation may reduce levels of certain cytokine and chemokines in human breast milk and may therefore impair the immunological benefits of breast feeding.

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