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Milk Protein Allergy

See Lebenthal 1975, Ped. Clin. N. Amer. 22:827; Gryboski 1991 Immunol. Allergy Clinics N. Amer. 11:773; See also the Human Milk and Lactation section of the Comparative Lactation Lesson.

Human infants can develop an allergic response to cow milk proteins. ß-Lactoglobulin is one of the primary antigenic components in milk that stimulates the immune hypersensitivity response in the infant. Incidence of true milk protein allergy in human infants probably is below 1%. Symptoms are similar to lactose intolerance (deficiency of intestinal lactase; see section above on lactose intolerance). Milk protein allergy response also may be a secondary phenomenon to injury of the small intestine mucosa, such as during lactose intolerance.

Neonates of all species are probably susceptible to allergic responses to food proteins. When born, most neonates have relatively little digestive capacity in the stomach and small intestine, therefore a higher proportion of intact food protein molecules enter the intestine and may act as antigens to cause the hypersensitivity response. In addition to ß-lactoglobulin, soy proteins, other plant proteins, fish meal proteins, and "browned" proteins [proteins heated at high temperatures in the presence of a carbohydrate (like lactose) resulting in covalent modification of the proteins and rendering them less digestible], all can cause allergic responses in neonates when ingested. These are important concerns of the milk replacer industry, as well as for human infants.


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