Gene polymorphisms, breastfeeding and food sensitization in early childhood

Published Online: June 24, 2011

The relationship between breastfeeding and allergic diseases is a subject of debate. The possibility that this relationship may vary by individual genetic susceptibility has not been explored. In an upcoming issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Hong et al. examined the effect of breastfeeding and gene-breastfeeding interactions on food sensitization (FS) in 960 children from an inner-city U.S. prospective birth cohort. FS was defined as specific IgE ≥0.35 kUA/L to any of eight common food allergens.

Eighty-eight potentially functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 18 genes involved in innate immunity or TH1/TH2 balance were analyzed. Ever breastfed children were at a 1.5 times higher risk of FS than never breastfed children. More importantly, the breastfeeding-FS association was dependent on the genotypes of SNPs in the IL12RB1(rs425648), TLR9(rs352140) and TSLP(rs3806933) genes. The interaction between breastfeeding and the combined genotypes of these three SNPs was even stronger.

These findings provide coherent evidence of gene-breastfeeding interactions on FS, and underscore the importance of evaluating breastfeeding-FS relationships in the context of individual genetic background. These findings, if confirmed by additional studies, may enable medical providers to offer more personalized care and advice to nursing mothers and their infants in the future.


The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology