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Breast-Feeding Protected Mice From Asthma
Date:1/28/2008

Mothers conferred immunity to allergen; not known if findings apply to humans

MONDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding helped protect baby mice from developing allergic asthma, a new study found.

The mice that were breast-fed by mothers that had been exposed to an allergen "inherited" the allergen and developed tolerance to it.

But once again, a central question is whether such an animal study can be extrapolated to humans.

"You hate to translate data on mice to data on humans," said Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "I wouldn't necessarily apply this to humans, especially because it's mice and not primates."

The findings were published online Jan. 27 in the journal Nature Medicine.

The incidence of allergic diseases such as asthma, food allergies and various skin conditions has soared during the past few decades. In children 4 years of age and younger, the incidence of asthma has risen 160 percent, while the incidence of atopic dermatitis, which includes eczema, has almost tripled. The incidence of peanut allergy has doubled just during the past decade, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Although genetic factors clearly play a role in the trends, researchers have intensified their efforts to find environmental contributors. And, in fact, exposure to allergens in the environment during infancy reduces the risk of developing asthma.

It's been unclear, however, if breast-feeding has an impact on the development of allergic disease.

Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a report concluding that atopic disease, which includes eczema, asthma and food allergies, may be delayed or prevented in high-risk infants if they're exclusively breast-fed for at least four months or fed infant formula without cow milk protein.

"The article from AAP actually f
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