Breast milk prefusion F immunoglobulin g as a correlate of protection against respiratory syncytial virus acute respiratory illness

Natalie I. Mazur, Nicole M. Horsley, Janet A. Englund, Maaike Nederend, Amalia Magaret, Azad Kumar, Shamir R. Jacobino, Cornelis A.M. De Haan, Subarna K. Khatry, Steven C. Leclerq, Mark C. Steinhoff, James M. Tielsch, Joanne Katz, Barney S. Graham, Louis J. Bont, Jeanette H.W. Leusen, Helen Y. Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background Transplacental respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) antibody transfer has been characterized, but little is known about the protective effect of breast milk RSV-specific antibodies. Serum antibodies against the prefusion RSV fusion protein (pre-F) exhibit high neutralizing activity. We investigate protection of breast milk pre-F antibodies against RSV acute respiratory infection (ARI). Methods Breast milk at 1, 3, and 6 months postpartum and midnasal swabs during infant illness episodes were collected in mother-infant pairs in Nepal. One hundred seventy-four infants with and without RSV ARI were matched 1:1 by risk factors for RSV ARI. Pre-F immunoglobulin A (IgA) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody levels were measured in breast milk. Results The median breast milk pre-F IgG antibody concentration before illness was lower in mothers of infants with RSV ARI (1.4 [interquartile range {IQR}, 1.1-1.6] log 10 ng/mL) than without RSV ARI (1.5 [IQR, 1.3-1.8] log 10 ng/mL) (P =.001). There was no difference in median maternal pre-F IgA antibody concentrations in cases vs controls (1.7 [IQR, 0.0-2.2] log 10 ng/mL vs 1.7 [IQR, 1.2-2.2] log 10 ng/mL, respectively; P =.58). Conclusions Low breast milk pre-F IgG antibodies before RSV ARI support a potential role for pre-F IgG as a correlate of protection against RSV ARI. Induction of breast milk pre-F IgG may be a mechanism of protection for maternal RSV vaccines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-67
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • IgG and IgA antibodies
  • acute respiratory infection
  • breast milk
  • maternal vaccination
  • respiratory syncytial virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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