Immunoglobulin from cow's milk may protect against RSV in infants: Study

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Immunoglobulin from cow's milk may protect against RSV in infants

Related tags: Immune system

The inclusion of intact bovine immunoglobulin G (bIgG) in milk-based infant formula could provide protection against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Dutch researchers claim.

Breastfeeding and serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) have been shown to protect against RSV infection, which is the second highest cause of death in the first year of life and is associated with the development of asthma.

IgG is the most common type of immunoglobulin, an antibody released throughout the body to help kill bacteria, viruses, and other germs.

Infant formula, however, lacks intact bIgG, which is destroyed during heat treatment. As a result, there is no information on the binding of IgG to human respiratory viruses, said the study, which was funded by Dutch dairy giant FrieslandCampina.

So researchers from FrieslandCampina, Wageningen University, University Medical Center Utrecht, and Bioceros took it upon themselves to establish whether bIgG could be a useful infant formula ingredient.

Using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), a test that uses antibodies and color change to identify a substance, the team found that bIgG binds to RSV.

It then induces antibody effector functions by binding to FccRII Ig receptors on phagocytes, the cells that protect the body against foreign bodies.

“Thus bovine IgG may contribute to immune protection against RSV,”​ said the study, published in PLOS One.

"Therefore, inclusion of intact bIgG in infant nutrition may contribute to the inclusion of adaptive immunity against airway infections," ​the study continued.

Asthma development 

It also speculated that bIgG could also be behind the positive effect of raw milk consumption on the development asthma development, as suggested in another recent FrieslandCampina-funded study.

"As RSV infections may predispose infants to develop asthma at a later age (6, 7, 8) we would like to speculate that there is a possibility that the effect we describe here for RSV-specific bovine antibodies may contribute the effect of raw milk consumption on asthma development," ​said the study.

While accepting that additional research will be required to "formally demonstrate that like Ig from breast milk, bIgG can assist the development of immune memory responses" ​the team of Netherlands-based researchers believe their findings speak volumes.

“Although nutritional intervention studies are needed to formally demonstrate if dietary bIgG can contribute to protection against respiratory pathogens, and possibly also against the development of asthma, the in vitro data reported here support this concept,"​ the study concluded. 

Source: PLOS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0112047
Title: Specificity and Effector Functions of Human RSV-Specific IgG from Bovine Milk. 
Authors: G den Hartog, S Jacobino, L Bont, L Cox, L Ulfman, J Leusen, J van Neerven. 

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