Cross-reactivity between milk proteins from different animal species


Restani Institute of Pharmacological Sciences via Balzaretti, 9, 20133 Milano, Italy.



Cow's milk allergy is quite frequent in the first years of human life. When breast-feeding is not possible, a cow's milk substitute must be provided for allergic subjects. Different alternatives to cow's milk have been suggested as protein sources (soy, hydrolysed proteins, goat's milk, etc.), but all these dietetic solutions are not without risks for polyallergic or more sensitive subjects.


To obtain new information on the suitability of other mammalian milks for allergic children, we evaluated the cross-reactivity between milk proteins from different animal species.


Milk samples were analysed by sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). To detect antibody–antigen complexes, immunoblotting was performed by using sera from children allergic to cow's and ewe's milk (RAST class ≥ 4) and monoclonal antibodies (MoAb) specific for bovine proteins (caseins and β-lactoglobulin).


IgEs from children allergic to cow's milk are capable of recognizing most part of milk proteins from mammals bred in European countries (ewe, goat, buffalo), while no serum used in this study contains IgEs reacting with camel's milk proteins. Camel's milk was also not recognized from circulating IgEs from a child specifically allergic to ewe's milk. Specific antibovine monoclonal antibodies cross-reacted with proteins from other mammalian species, apart from those of camel.


Homologies in amino acidic composition could justify the cross-reactivity observed between proteins from different animal species. On the other hand, the phylogenetic difference could be responsible for the failed recognition of camel's proteins by circulating IgEs and monoclonal antibodies.