Because it has recently been hypothesized that human milk is antiinflammatory, the effects of aqueous human colostrum on human polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) respiratory burst activity and selected enzymatic activities was examined. Aqueous colostrum was found to spontaneously reduce ferricytochrome C in a concentration-dependent manner, prohibiting use of the standard assay to measure superoxide production. It also caused a significant concentration-dependent prolongation of the lagtime from stimulation of PMN with phorbol myristate acetate to the appearance of hydrogen peroxide. Substitution of an enzymatic peroxide-generating system for PMN did not alter the effect of colostrum. Colostrum also suppressed myeloperoxidase activity and lysozyme activity, but not beta-glucuronidase activity in PMN lysates. Inclusion of colostrum in an in vitro assay of PMN-mediated cell detachment significantly suppressed this PMN-mediated effect. These data demonstrate that aqueous human colostrum significantly interferes with PMN oxygen metabolic and enzymatic activities that are important in the mediation of acute inflammation.