Immune regulatory cytokines in the milk of lactating women from farming and urban environments


Peroni Diego, MD, Clinica Pediatrica Universita’ di Verona, Policlinico GB Rossi, Piazzale Scuro, 37134 Verona, Italy
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Peroni DG, Pescollderungg L, Piacentini GL, Rigotti E, Maselli M, Watschinger K, Piazza M, Pigozzi R, Boner AL. Immune regulatory cytokines in the milk of lactating women from farming and urban environments.
Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2010: 21: 977–982.
© 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S

Children living on farms have fewer allergies. It is unclear whether breastfeeding in different environments contributes to preventing allergies by exposing offspring to different cytokines that can modulate immune responses. The aim of this study was to quantify and compare levels of Transforming Growth Factor-β1 (TGF-β1) and Interleukin-10 (IL-10) in the colostrum and mature milk of mothers living in towns at sea level (references) and mothers on farms. Milk samples were collected within 3 days postpartum (colostrum) and at the first month of the baby’s life (mature milk). Sixty-nine reference mothers and 45 farm mothers participated in the study. TGF-β1 concentrations were significantly higher both in the colostrum (p < 0.05) and in mature milk (p < 0.05) of farm mothers. In the reference mothers, a significant decrease in TGF-β1 concentrations was observed between colostrum (650, range 0–8000 pg/ml) and mature milk (250, range 0–8000 pg/ml) (p < 0.05). In farm mothers, TGF-β1 concentrations were 1102 pg/ml (range 0–14,500) in colostrum and remained high in mature milk (821 pg/ml, range 0–14,650). IL-10 concentrations were higher in the mature milk of farm mothers (p < 0.05). No significant differences in IL-10 were observed between colostrum and mature milk in the control group (15 pg/ml, range 0–1800, and 0 pg/ml, range 0–230) or in farm mothers (9.5 pg/ml, range 0–1775, and 14.2 pg/ml, range 0–930), respectively. Exposure to a farm environment is associated with higher concentrations of TGF-β1 and IL-10 in breast milk when compared to exposure to an urban environment. Higher cytokine concentrations in breast milk may influence early modulation of the development of an immune response, leading to a reduced prevalence of allergy-related diseases in farm children.