Hannu Korhonen1 *, P. Marnila1 and H. S. Gill
Agricultural Research Centre of Finland, Food Research, FIN-31600 Jokioinen, Finland
Milk and Health Research Centre, Massey University and New Zealand Dairy Research Institute, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The immunoglobulins of bovine colostrum provide the major antimicrobial protection against microbial infections and confer a passive immunity to the newborn calf until its own immune system matures. The concentration in colostrum of specific antibodies against pathogens can be raised by immunising cows with these pathogens or their antigens. Immune milk products are preparations made of such hyperimmune colostrum or antibodies enriched from it. These preparations can be used to give effective specific protection against different enteric diseases in calves and suckling pigs. Colostral immunoglobulin supplements designed for farm animals are commercially available in many countries. Also, some immune milk products containing specific antibodies against certain pathogens have been launched on the market. A number of clinical studies are currently in progress to evaluate the efficacy of immune milks in the prevention and treatment of various human infections, including those caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria. Bovine colostrum-based immune milk products have proven effective in prophylaxis against various infectious diseases in humans. Good results have been obtained with products targeted against rotavirus, Shigella flexneri, Escherichia coli, Clostridium difficile, Streptococcus mutans, Cryptosporidium parvum and Helicobacter pylori. Some successful attempts have been made to use immune milk in balancing gastrointestinal microbial flora. Immune milk products are promising examples of health-promoting functional foods, or nutraceuticals. This review summarises the recent progress in the development of these products and evaluates their potential as dietary supplements and in clinical nutrition.