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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Breastfeeding Decreases Maternal Eosinophil Counts During the First Two Months of Lactation

item Zimmer, Paul - CORNELL UNIVERSITY
item Garza, Cutberto - CORNELL UNIVERSITY
item Butte, Nancy
item Goldman, Armond - UNIV TX MED BR GALVESTON

Submitted to: Experimental Biology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 1, 1996
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: The effects of lactation on maternal infectious disease resistance are largely unknown. Animal data indicate that lactating mice have a reduced resistance to nematode infections compared to virgin mice (Ngwenya, BZ. Cell Immunol 24:116-22, 1976). As part of a longitudinal study of the effects of lactation on maternal immune status, we measured peripheral blood leukocyte populations in a group of seven lactating women at 1-2 weeks, one and two months postpartum. Blood samples were drawn before the infant initiated a breastfeeding session and thirty minutes after the infant finished feeding. Using repeated measures ANOVA, we found a significant drop in peripheral blood eosinophil counts (p=0.044) and percents (p=0.007) between individual pre- and post-feeding samples across all postpartum time points measured. Prefeeding serum prolactin concentration and borderline significance (p=0.057) as a covariant in the analysis of changes in eosinophil counts. These findings imply that breastfeeding reduces maternal eosinophil counts and raise the question of whether women have a reduced resistance to parasitic infections during lactation. Such a finding would have the most relevance for women in developing countries where breastfeeding rates and parasitic infection prevalences are highest.

Last Modified: 5/5/2015