The University of Western Australia (UWA), with support from the Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation (FLRF), is researching the impact of colostrum on an infant’s gut microbiota, immune regulation and metabolic homeostasis. They are investigating whether colostrum’s specific composition is required for gut immune maturation from birth, which will result in low susceptibility to allergy and obesity in the long-term.

“Colostrum may be the royal jelly for the newborn, bringing key elements for healthy growth and low risk of allergy. The research of my team will decipher whether this is the case. In the affirmative, we expect our research will motivate changes in early breastfeeding practices which are far from optimal in about half of the cases.” – Valérie VerhasseltMD, PhD, Professor and Director of the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Centre for Immunology and Breastfeeding at the Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia

This project has been shaped by earlier findings indicating the composition of colostrum differs profoundly from mature breastmilk – both qualitatively and quantitatively (Ballard and Morrow 2013). Yet until now, the potential health impact of this first fluid produced by the mammary gland has been poorly investigated.

The investigators further intend to analyse the impact of colostrum intake, and the lack of colostrum intake, on obesity and allergy risks in adulthood. In connection, the study aims to identify those dietary and physiological factors in early life, which condition long-term health by establishing the basis for sustainable prevention of obesity and allergies.

FLRF donated nearly AUD 600,000 to the project, which is anchored in the UWA School of Medicine and located at the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Centre for Immunology and Breastfeeding, at the Telethon Kids Institute.

References and further reading

Macchiaverni P, Rekima A, van den Elsen L, Renz H, Verhasselt V. Allergen shedding in human milk: Could it be key for immune system education and allergy prevention? J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2021;148(3):679–88. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2021.07.012

van den Elsen LWJ, Verhasselt V. Human milk drives the intimate interplay between gut immunity and adipose tissue for healthy growth. Front Immunol. 2021;12:645415. DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.645415

Rodríguez JM, Fernández L, Verhasselt V. The gut‒breast axis: Programming health for life. Nutrients. 2021;13(2):606. DOI: 10.3390/nu13020606

Vandenplas Y, Meyer R, Chouraqui J-P, Dupont C, Fiocchi A, Salvatore S, et al. The role of milk feeds and other dietary supplementary interventions in preventing allergic disease in infants: Fact or fiction? Clin Nutr. 2021;40(2):358–71. DOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2020.10.025

Adel-Patient K, Bernard H, Fenaille F, Hazebrouck S, Junot C, Verhasselt V. Prevention of allergy to a major cow’s milk allergen by breastfeeding in mice depends on maternal immune status and oral exposure during lactation. Front Immunol. 2020;11:1545. DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.01545

Rekima A, Bonnart C, Macchiaverni P, Metcalfe J, Tulic MK, Halloin N, et al. A role for early oral exposure to house dust mite allergens through breast milk in IgE-mediated food allergy susceptibility. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2020;145(5):1416-1429.e11. DOI: 10.1111/all.14142

van den Elsen LWJ, Garssen J, Burcelin R, Verhasselt V. Shaping the gut Microbiota by breastfeeding: The gateway to allergy prevention? Front Pediatr. 2019;7:47. DOI: 10.3389/fped.2019.00047

van den Elsen LWJ, Garssen J, Burcelin R, Verhasselt V. Shaping the Gut Microbiota by Breastfeeding: The Gateway to Allergy Prevention? Front Pediatr. 2019 Feb 27;7:47. DOI: 10.3389/fped.2019.00047. eCollection 2019.

Turfkruyer M, Verhasselt V. Breast milk and its impact on maturation of the neonatal immune system. Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2015 Jun;28(3):199-206. DOI: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000165.

He Y, Liu S, Leone S, Newburg DS. Human colostrum oligosaccharides modulate major immunologic pathways of immature human intestine. Mucosal Immunol. 2014 Nov;7(6):1326-39. DOI: 10.1038/mi.2014.20. Epub 2014 Apr 2.

Ballard O, Morrow AL. Human milk composition: nutrients and bioactive factors. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2013 Feb;60(1):49-74. DOI: 10.1016/j.pcl.2012.10.002.