Colostrum is produced in the first days postpartum. It is a known source of immune mediators for a newborn within the first week of life. Although it is still unclear if colostrum composition varies between populations, recent data suggest differences. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF); transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) 1, 2, and 3; and immunoglobulin A (IgA) are key immunological components of colostrum that stimulate neonatal gastrointestinal and immune system development. We aimed to investigate the differences in the concentration between immune markers in the colostrum of mothers living in Burundi and Italy, and to identify the factors associated with differences. In this cross-sectional birth cohort study, a total of 99 colostrum samples from Burundian (n
= 23) and Italian (n
= 76) women were collected at 0 to 6 days postpartum. A clinical chemistry analyser was used for IgA quantification and electro-chemiluminescence, for HGF and TGFβ1-3 assessment. A univariate analysis and multivariate linear regression model were used for statistical testing. The concentrations of TGF-β2 (p
= 0.01) and IgA (p
< 0.01) were significantly higher in the colostrum from the women residing in Burundi than in Italy, both in a univariate analysis and upon the adjustment for confounding factors. A similar trend is seen for HGF, reaching statistical significance upon a multivariate analysis. We found a moderate to strong positive correlation between the TGF-β isoforms and IgA concentration in both countries (p
< 0.01), with stronger concentration in the colostrum from Burundi. The results of this study are in support of previous data, suggesting that concentration of the immune active molecules is higher in the human milk of women residing in developing countries. However, with a small sample size, caution must be applied, as the findings require further confirmation. Future work should also be focused on other factors (e.g., lipid and microbial composition), as well as the investigation into colostrum and between populations comparison, adjusting for potential confounders.
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