Immune markers in breast milk and fetal and maternal body fluids: a systematic review of perinatal concentrations

J Hum Lact. 2011 May;27(2):171-86. doi: 10.1177/0890334410395761.


Breastfeeding represents the continued exposure of the infant to the maternal immune environment.Uterine, perinatal, and postnatal exposure to immune factors may contribute to an infant’s risk of developing immune-mediated disorders, including allergies. A PubMed search was conducted to review studies in humans and analyze concentrations of immune markers (TGF-beta, IFN-gamma, eotaxin, CCL5, CXCL10, TNF-alpha, MCP-1, IL-1beta, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6,IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, sCD14, sIgA, IgG4, IgM) found in maternal serum, amniotic fluid, cord serum, colostrum, transition and mature milk. Concentrations of immune markers showed large variations across samples and studies. Reports documented conflicting results. Small sample sizes, differences in population characteristics, inconsistent sample collection times, and various sample collection and measurement methods may have led to wide variations in the concentrations of immune markers. Studies analyzing the associations between immune markers in maternal fluids and infant allergies remain inconclusive because of gaps in knowledge and a lack of standardized methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / immunology
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Colostrum / immunology*
  • Cytokines / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired / immunology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Milk, Human / immunology*


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Cytokines