Parasite Antigens Are Present in Breast Milk of Women Infected with Onchocerca volvulus

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  • * Department of Tropical Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115
  • Centro Amazonico Investigacion Control Enfermedades Tropicales (CAICET), Apartado 59, Zona 7101, Puerto Ayacucho, TFA, Venezuela

We used a noncompetitive two-site ELISA with 5 monoclonal antibodies to determine whether parasite antigens are present in breast milk from women infected with Onchocerca volvulus. Seven out of 13 available milk samples contained significant amounts of filarial antigens. Antigen indices in milk correlated with levels of microfilarodermia (Rs = 0.74, P < 0.005). Antigen-containing milk samples markedly inhibited mitogen-induced proliferation of human mononuclear cells and activated cells within this population that suppressed the proliferative response of autologous lymphocytes to mitogens and antigens. These findings indicate that parasite products are present in breast milk of O. volvulus-infected women and suggest that these may induce immune tolerance and/or suppression in infants born of infected mothers.

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