Background: Hydrolyzed milk formulas are recommended to feed infants at high risk of atopy if breast-feeding is not possible. We studied the specific cellular and humoral immune response to cow's milk proteins and occurrence of atopic dermatitis under different feeding regimens: two hydrolyzed infant milk formulas (partially [pHF] and extensively hydrolyzed [eHF]) and under exclusive breast-feeding (BF).
Methods: Seventy-two infants from families with atopic symptoms were randomized in the pHF and eHF groups, respectively. At 6 and 12 months of age, peripheral blood mononuclear cell proliferation along with specific IgG and IgE to cow's milk proteins was determined in infants fed pHF or eHF, respectively, and those who had not yet received any formula at 6 months of age (BF). Cases of atopic dermatitis were recorded throughout the first 12 months of life, and their severity was evaluated with SCORAD points.
Results: A significantly decreased proliferation to cow's milk caseins was found in the pHF group compared to the exclusively breast-fed group. Medians of stimulation indexes for CAS at 6 months were as follows: pHF 1.18; n=24; BF 1.70; n=24 (P=0.033, Mann-Whitney U-test). Higher levels of plasma IgG antibodies to BCAS were found in infants fed pHF than in those fed eHF at 12 months. Optical density (OD): (25th percentile; median; 75th percentile): pHF: 0.00; 0.14; 0.38; n=30; eHF: 0.00; 0.03; 0.14; n=28; P=0,089, Mann-Whitney U-test. Cow's milk-specific IgE was detected at 6 months as follows: BF: 3 of 24; eHF: 2 of 21; pHF: 0 of 23. The number of cases of atopic dermatitis and their severity did not differ among the groups during the first 12 months.
Conclusions: Feeding pHF appears to suppress cow's milk-specific cellular responses and stimulate specific IgG production. Specific IgE sensitization can occur also with breast-feeding.