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Colostrum Info

Immune Factors

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In addition to immunoglobulins there are other immune factors present in milk and colostrum: including lactoferrin, transferrin, secretory component, lyzozyme, oligosaccharides, glycolipids, and various hormones.

These all function in a complimentary fashion and are all responsible for health and well being.

Briefly the various biological functions of these immune factors are as follows:


Iron-binding protein, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory


Iron-binding protein, antioxidant, Anti-microbial

Secretory Component

Prostaglandin inhibitor, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial


Stimulators of the immune response - by promoting proliferation and maturation of activated T cells


Antiviral , stimulators of immune response by modulating the activity of natural killer cells.


Anti-microbial - acts in conjunction with secretory IgA to neutralizeharmful bacteria


Anti-microbial, inhibit the ability of harmful bacteria adhering to mucousal surface


Various anti-microbial and modulator functions




An important consideration is the stability of antibodies in the digestive tract.

In a study conducted to ascertain the stability of bovine immunoglobulins to proteolytic digestion it was revealed that antibodies which possess specific activity can pass through the gastrointestinal tract of infants without being completely destroyed (7).

This indicates that the specific action of antibodies in the gastrointestinal tract is not adversely affected and that biological activity is retained.

Lactoferrin has recently gained a great deal of international attention based on its broad range of beneficial physiological effects. Extensive scientific evidence has shown how lactorferrin is an outstanding example of a naturally occurring food ingredient, found in milk and colostrum, which helps to counteract the negative effects often found in our hostile environment. Lactoferrin has been shown to function as an anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and as an antioxidant or scavenger of free radicals.

Lactoferrin was first isolated in milk, thus its name. However, it is also found in other secretions such as tears and saliva. Its main biological function is that it has a very high affinity for iron. It is because this action that lactoferrin is an excellent inhibitor of a wide range of microorganisms that require iron for growth and proliferation. Recent scientific evidence has linked lactoferrin with significant beneficial effects in the treatment of cancers, specifically in the reduction of tumours. Though the actual mechanism of action is yet to be elucidated lactoferrin has been shown to suppress colon cancer tumors and also to inhibit lung cancer metastasis. Further, it has also been shown to successfully inhibit the hepatitis C virus in patients suffering chronic infection.

Transferrin is similar to lactoferrin in it’s ability to bind iron and to act as a antioxidant. Though its’ effectiveness and bio-potency is much less as compared to lactoferrin.

Secretory component is associated with the immunoglobulins “IgA” and “IgM”. It has also been suggested that it may possibly exist in an unbound or free form.



1. Smith, T. and Little, R. B. (1922). The signifance of colostrum to the newborn calf. J. Exp. Med. 36: 181-186.

2. McEwan, A. D., Fisher, E. W. and Selman, I. E. (1970). Observations on the immunoglobulin level of neonatal calves and their relationship to disease. J. Comp. Path. 80: 259-263.

3. Penhale, W. J., Logan, E. F., Selman, I. E., Fisher, E. W. and McEwan, A. D. (1973). Observations on the adsorption of colostral immunoglobulins by neonatal calf and their significance in colibacillosis. Ann. Rech. Vet. 4: 223-229.

3. Brambell, F. W. R. (1969). In The Transmission of Passive Immunity From Mother to Young. Vol. 18. Am. Elsevier Publishing Co., New York.

4. Pahud, J. J., Hilbert, H., Schwartz, K., Amster, H., and Smiley, M. (1981): Bovine milk antibodies in the treatment of enteric infections and their ability to eliminate virulence factors from pathogenic E. coli. In: The Ruminanat Immune System, edited by J. E. Butler, pp 591-600. Plenum, New York.

5. McGuire, T. C., Pfeiffer, N. E., Weikel, J. M. and Bartsch, R. G. (1976). Failure of colostral immunoglobulin transfer in calves dying from infectious disease. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assn. 169: 713-716.

6. McEwan, A. D., Fisher, E. W. and Selman, I. E. (1970). Observations on the immunoglobulin level of neonatal calves and their relationship to disease. J. Comp. Path. 80: 259-263.

7. Tacket, C. O., Losonsky, G., Link, H., Hoang, Y., Guesry, P., Hipert, H. and Levine, M. M. (1988). Protection by milk immunoglobulin concentrate against oral challenge with enterogenic Escherichia coli. Eng. J. Med., 318: 1240-1.

8. Mietens, C., Keinhorst, H., Hilpert, H., Gerber, H., Amster, H. and Pahud, J. J. (1979). Treatment of infantile E. coli gastroenteritis with specific bovine anti-E. coli milk immunoglobulins. Eur. J. Ped. 132: 239-52.

9. Hilpert, H., Gerber, H., Amster, H., Pahud, J. J., Ballabriga, A., Arcalis, L., Farriaux, J. P. de Peyer, E., and Nussle', D. (1977): Bovine milk immunoglobulins (Ig) their possible utilization in industrially prepared infant's milk formulae. In: Food and Immunology, Swedish Nutritional Foundation Symposium XIII, edited by L. Hambraeus, L. A. Hanson, and H. McFarlane, pp 182-196. Almquist and Wiksell, Stockholm.

10. Brussow, H., Hipert, H., Walther, J., Sidoti, J., Meitens, C., and Bachman, P. (1987). Bovine milk immunoglobulins for passive immunity to infantile rotavirus gastroenteritus. J. Microbiol. 25: 982-6.

11. Ebina, T., Sato, A., Umezu, K. Ishida, N., Ohyama, S., Oizumi, A. Kitaoka, S., Suzuki, H., and Kunno, T. (1985). Prevention of rotavirus infection by oral administration of cow colostrum containing antihuman rotavirus antibody. Med. Microbiol. Immunol., 174: 177-85.

12. Tacket, C. O., Binion, S. B., Bostwick, E., Losonsky, G., Roy, M. J., Edelman, R. (1992). Efficacy of bovine milk immunoglobulin concentrate in preventing illness after Shigella flexneri challenge. Amer. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 47: 276-83.

13. Hilpert, H., Brussow, H., Meitens, C., Sidoti, J., Lerner, L., Werchau, H. (1987). Use of bovine milk concentrate containing antibody to rotavirus to treat rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants. J. Infect. Dis., 156: 158-66.

14. Tzipori, C. O., Binion, S. B., Bostwick, E., Losonsky, G., Roy, M. J., and Edelman, R. (1986). Remission of diarrhoea due to cryptosporidosis in an immunodeficient child treated with hyperimmune bovine colostrum. Brit. Med. J., 293: 1276-7.

15. Roitt,I., Brostoff,J., Male,D., Immunology, Gower Medical Publishing Company (1985), 5.1 - 5.8.

16. Baird, A., et al.(1994). Curr Opin. Neurobiol. 4, 78.

17. Pascall, I.C., et al.(1994). J. Mol. Encrinol.12, 313.

18. Hormonal Proteins and Peptides - Growth Factors, Vol. XII, Choh, H.L. (ed) 1984

The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food And Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. The statements are for informational purposes only and is it not meant to replace the services or recommendations of a physician or qualified health care practitioner. Those with health problems or pregnancy are specifically advised that they should consult their physician before taking colostrum or any nutritional supplement.


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