Perspectives on immunoglobulins in colostrum and milk

Nutrients. 2011 Apr;3(4):442-74. doi: 10.3390/nu3040442. Epub 2011 Apr 14.


Immunoglobulins form an important component of the immunological activity found in milk and colostrum. They are central to the immunological link that occurs when the mother transfers passive immunity to the offspring. The mechanism of transfer varies among mammalian species. Cattle provide a readily available immune rich colostrum and milk in large quantities, making those secretions important potential sources of immune products that may benefit humans. Immune milk is a term used to describe a range of products of the bovine mammary gland that have been tested against several human diseases. The use of colostrum or milk as a source of immunoglobulins, whether intended for the neonate of the species producing the secretion or for a different species, can be viewed in the context of the types of immunoglobulins in the secretion, the mechanisms by which the immunoglobulins are secreted, and the mechanisms by which the neonate or adult consuming the milk then gains immunological benefit. The stability of immunoglobulins as they undergo processing in the milk, or undergo digestion in the intestine, is an additional consideration for evaluating the value of milk immunoglobulins. This review summarizes the fundamental knowledge of immunoglobulins found in colostrum, milk, and immune milk.

Keywords: immunoglobulins; bovine; colostrum; human; immunity; milk; passive transfer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Colostrum / immunology*
  • Diarrhea / immunology
  • Digestion
  • Drug Stability
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired / immunology
  • Immunization, Passive
  • Immunoglobulins* / analysis
  • Immunoglobulins* / immunology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Milk / immunology*
  • Milk, Human / immunology


  • Immunoglobulins