Background: Colostrum is the first defense for neonates. It is rich in immune components including immunoglobulins and viable immune cells. In the present study, human colostrum collected from 105 postpartum mothers was analyzed for its IgA, IgM, IgG levels, and peripheral immune cells.
Methods: Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was used to analyze the serum immunoglobulin concentrations. Immune cells were estimated by counting 200 cells.
Results: IgA was the dominant immunoglobulin and ranged from 2.84 to 8.69 g/L (mean 5.61 g/L). Mean IgM and IgG concentrations were 0.4 g/L (0.16–0.66 g/L) and 0.095 g/L (0.04–0.15 g/L), respectively. Neutrophil–macrophage (neu-mac) predominated in cell count (59%) followed by lymphocyte–plasma cells (lymph-plasma; 40%). The influence of maternal nutritional status, age, parity and income levels on the colostral immunological factors was studied. No significant association could be traced for immunoglobulin content, suggesting that maternal characteristics do not have any bearing on the immunoglobulin content of colostrum. Mean value of eosinophils was found to be higher among the underweight than the normal mothers (F= 3.143, r=−0.101). Maternal age was positively correlated with eosinophil (F= 3.296, r= 0.162). Concentration of neu-mac had a positive significant correlation with parity (t=−2.07, r= 0.205), while it was negatively significant for lymphocyte–plasma cells (t= 2.073, r=−0.101). However, the correlation coefficients of the immunologic parameters with other maternal characteristics were statistically insignificant.
Conclusion: Colostrum has enough humoral and cellular elements to protect babies. Therefore, immune protection derived from breastfeeding depends on the immunoglobulin level of the colostrum as well as the amount of colostrum ingested.