Maternal allergy and the presence of nonhuman proteinaceous molecules in human milk

Pieter M. Dekker, Sjef Boeren, Alet H. Wijga, Gerard H. Koppelman, Jacques J.M. Vervoort, Kasper A. Hettinga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Human milk contains proteins and/or protein fragments that originate from nonhuman organisms. These proteinaceous molecules, of which the secretion might be related to the mother’s allergy status, could be involved in the development of the immune system of the infant. This may lead, for example, to sensitization or the induction of allergen-specific tolerance. The aim of this study was to investigate the relation between maternal allergy and the levels of nonhuman proteinaceous molecules in their milk. In this study, we analysed trypsin-digested human milk serum proteins of 10 allergic mothers and 10 nonallergic mothers. A search was carried out to identify peptide sequences originating from bovine or other allergenic proteins. Several methods were applied to confirm the identification of these sequences, and the differences between both groups were investigated. Out of the 78 identified nonhuman peptide sequences, 62 sequences matched Bos taurus proteins. Eight peptide sequences of bovine β-lactoglobulin had significantly higher levels in milk from allergic mothers than in milk from nonallergic mothers. Dietary bovine β-lactoglobulin may be absorbed through the intestinal barrier and secreted into human milk. This seems to be significantly higher in allergic mothers and might have consequences for the development of the immune system of their breastfed infant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1169
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Allergen transfer
  • Human milk
  • Maternal allergy
  • Nonhuman proteins
  • β-lactoglobulin

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