September 12, 2016
1 min read

Breast-feeding protects infants with genetic predisposition for asthma

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Breast-feeding could protect infants who have the gene associated with asthma risk, according to data presented recently at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in London.

In a press release, Olga Gorlanova, MD, of University Children’s Hospital Basel in Switzerland, and colleagues, suggested that breast-feeding in the first year of life can reduce the later risk for asthma in babies born with a defect on chromosome 17 called 17q21.

“Our study is the first to show that breast-feeding can modify the effect of asthma-related genetic profiles on respiratory symptoms in the first year of life,” Gorlanova said in the release.

The researchers selected 368 infants from the Basel-Bern Infant Lung Development birth cohort and studied breast-feeding status and levels of severity and occurrence in respiratory symptoms weekly during a 1-year period. Infants underwent genotyping, and the researchers analyzed five 17q21 tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

Although the investigators did not find an association between asthma-associated 17q21variants and respiratory symptoms in the infants’ first year, they observed a 27% decreased relative risk for developing respiratory symptoms in infants during the weeks they were breast-fed. During the weeks when the cohort was not breast-fed, infants affected by 17q21 showed an increased risk for respiratory symptoms, resulting in interactions in SNPs rs7216389, AA (P = .003) and rs4795405, CC (P = .01).

“As research in this field progresses, we are understanding more and more about the gene-environment interaction for the development of asthma,” Gorlanova said in the release. “Our study sheds light on how this interaction can be modified by breast-feeding. Our results must be replicated in another cohort.” – by Kate Sherrer


Gorlanova O, et al. Interaction of 17q21 variants with breastfeeding in relation to respiratory symptoms in infancy. Presented at: ERS International Congress; Sept. 3-7, 2016; London.

Disclosure: Infectious Diseases in Children was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.