Anti-Infective Proteins in Breast Milk and Asthma-Associated Phenotypes During Early Childhood
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Background: The impact of breast milk feeding on susceptibility to asthma in childhood is highly controversial, due in part to failure of the majority of studies in the area to adequately account for key confounders exemplified by respiratory infection history, plus the effects of recall bias. Methods: As part of a prospective cohort study on the role of respiratory infections in asthma development in high-risk children, we measured the concentration of a panel of anti-infective proteins in maternal milk samples and analyzed associations between these and subsequent atopy-, infection-, and asthma-related outcomes prospectively to age 10 years. Results: We observed significant but transient inverse associations between the concentration of milk proteins and susceptibility to upper respiratory infections in year 1 only, and parallel but positive transient associations with early lower respiratory infections and atopy. No associations were seen with asthma-related outcomes. Conclusions: Breast milk feeding may influence the expression of inflammatory symptoms associated with respiratory infections and atopy in early life, but these effects appear to be inconsistent and transient. The heterogeneous nature of breast-feeding effects suggests it may influence systemic immunoinflammatory function at several different levels.
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