Submitted to: Experimental Biology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/1996
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary:
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.