Background. Breast milk has been shown to prevent gut-origin infections in neonates through undefined mechanisms. Putative protective factors in breast milk include immunoglobulin (Ig)A, IgG, and lactoferrin. We examined their role in bacteriai translocation in neonatal rabbits. Methods, IgA, IgG, and lactoferrin were isolated from rabbit breast milk through gel filtration and ion-exchange chromatography. Neonates were randomized to receive breast milk, formula alone, or formula supplemented with IgA, IgG, or lactoferrin. Quantitative cultures were performed on day 7 for bacterial translocation. Hematoxylin-eosin-stained sections of distal ileum were examined by light microscopy. Transmucosal bacterial passage was determined in vitro, and the ileal mucosal membranes were examined by con focal microscopy. Results. IgA supplementation abrogated bacterial translocation. IgG and lactoferrin had no significant effect. Neonates that received IgA or breast milk gained more weight than those in the other groups. IgA reduced transmucosal bacterial passage in vitro. In contrast to the normal-appearing distal ileum of neonates fed breast milk, intestinal epithelium from neonates that received formula or formula with IgG or IgA demonstrated prominent vacuoles by light microscopy. Those fed formula alone or formula with lactoferrin had slightly shortened villi. Conclusions. IgA supplementation prevents bacterial translocation by enhancing gut mucosal barrier function.
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