Comparison of human milk immunoglobulin survival during gastric digestion between preterm and term infants

Veronique Demers-Mathieu, Mark Underwood, Robert L. Beverly, Søren D. Nielsen, David C. Dallas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Human milk provides immunoglobulins (Igs) that supplement the passive immune system of neonates; however, the extent of survival of these Igs during gastric digestion and whether this differs between preterm and term infants remains unknown. Human milk, and infant gastric samples at 2 h post-ingestion were collected from 15 preterm (23–32 week gestational age (GA)) mother-infant pairs and from 8 term (38–40 week of GA) mother-infant pairs within 7–98 days postnatal age. Samples were analyzed via ELISA for concentration of total IgA (secretory IgA (SIgA)/IgA), total secretory component (SC/SIgA/SIgM), total IgM (SIgM/IgM), and IgG as well as peptidomics. Total IgA concentration decreased by 60% from human milk to the preterm infant stomach and decreased by 48% in the term infant stomach. Total IgM and IgG concentrations decreased by 33% and 77%, respectively, from human milk to the term infant stomach but were stable in the preterm infant stomach. Release of peptides from all Ig isotypes in the term infant stomach was higher than in the preterm stomach. Overall, the stability of human milk Igs during gastric digestion is higher in preterm infant than in term infants, which could be beneficial for assisting the preterm infants’ immature immune system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number631
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 17 2018


  • Antibodies
  • Breast milk
  • Lactation
  • Passive immunity
  • Peptidomics
  • Prematurity
  • Proteolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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