The effect of human colostrum on the production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and on natural killer (NK) cell activity by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was investigated in 50 healthy women. At concentrations as low as 0.5%, human colostrum stimulated IL-2 production; at a higher concentration (10%), IL-2 secretion was inhibited. A time and dose dependent inhibitory effect of colostrum on NK cytotoxicity was also observed. This inhibition could be reversed by the addition of human recombinant IL-2 (hrIL-2). The stimulation of IL-2 production induced by human colostrum might compensate for its inhibitory effect on NK cell activity. These findings suggest an additional mechanism by which breast feeding may affect the neonatal immune system.
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