European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 1293–1301 | Cite as

FUT2-dependent breast milk oligosaccharides and allergy at 2 and 5 years of age in infants with high hereditary allergy risk

  • Norbert SprengerEmail author
  • Hannah Odenwald
  • Anna Kaarina Kukkonen
  • Mikael Kuitunen
  • Erkki Savilahti
  • Clemens KunzEmail author
Original Contribution



Manifestation of allergic disease depends on genetic predisposition, diet and commensal microbiota. Genetic polymorphism of mothers determines their breast milk glycan composition. One major determinant is the fucosyltransferase 2 (FUT2, secretor gene) that was shown to be linked to commensal microbiota establishment. We studied whether FUT2-dependent breast milk oligosaccharides are associated with allergic disease in breast-fed infants later in life.


We analyzed FUT2-dependent oligosaccharides in breast milk samples of mothers (n = 266) from the placebo group of a randomized placebo-controlled trial of prebiotics and probiotics as preventive against allergic disease in infants with high allergy risk (trial registry number: NCT00298337). Using logistic regression models, we studied associations between FUT2-dependent breast milk oligosaccharides and incidence of allergic disease at 2 and 5 years of age.


At 2 years, but not at 5 years of age, we observed a presumed lower incidence (p < 0.1) for IgE-associated eczema manifestation in C-section-born infants who were fed breast milk containing FUT2-dependent oligosaccharides. By logistic regression, we observed a similar relation (p < 0.1) between presence of FUT2-dependent breast milk oligosaccharides and IgE-associated disease and IgE-associated eczema in C-section-born infants only. When testing with the levels of breast milk oligosaccharide 2′-fucosyllactose as proxy for FUT2 activity, we observed significant (p < 0.05) associations in the C-section-born infants with ‘any allergic disease,’ IgE-associated disease, eczema and IgE-associated eczema.


The data indicate that infants born by C-section and having a high hereditary risk for allergies might have a lower risk to manifest IgE-associated eczema at 2 years, but not 5 years of age, when fed breast milk with FUT2-dependent milk oligosaccharides. Further studies with larger cohorts and especially randomized controlled intervention trials are required to build on these preliminary observations.


Human milk oligosaccharides Breast-feeding Allergy Mode of delivery 



We thank the study participants and their parents for participation, Dr. Rajat Mukherjee for help with the statistical analysis and Drs. Aristea Binia, Carine Gaelle Blanchard, Chiara Nembrini, and Susan Wernimont for critical discussion and reviewing of the manuscript. The study got financial support from the Nestle Research Center, Nestec S.A., Switzerland.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

NS and HO are employees of Nestec S.A., and CK received a research Grant from Nestec S.A.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norbert Sprenger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hannah Odenwald
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Anna Kaarina Kukkonen
    • 3
  • Mikael Kuitunen
    • 4
  • Erkki Savilahti
    • 4
  • Clemens Kunz
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Nestlé Research CenterNestec S.A.Lausanne 26Switzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Nutritional SciencesUniversity of GiessenGiessenGermany
  3. 3.Skin and Allergy HospitalHelsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Children’s HospitalUniversity of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland
  5. 5.Nestle Health SciencesBiopoleEpalingesSwitzerland

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