Immunologic disturbances in cow's milk allergy, 2: Evidence for defective interferon-gamma generation.


We have investigated the role of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) in the regulation of antigen-specific T-cell function in patients with cow's milk allergy. The study population consisted of 22 patients, aged from 7.6 to 56.9 months, who had challenge-proven cow's milk allergy (CMA) manifested with either skin (n = 9) or gastrointestinal (n = 13) symptoms. In addition, 11 age-matched children and 6 adults, mean (SD) age 31 (7) years, were studied as controls. Patients with challenge-proven CMA were rechallenged to establish whether they had acquired clinical tolerance to cow's milk. The spontaneous and mitogen-induced IFN-gamma and interleukin-4 (IL-4) generation of isolated lymphocytes was evaluated in vitro with commercial ELISA Kits at diagnosis and at reassessment. At diagnosis, the IFN-gamma production was not detectable in patients with CMA as compared with control children. IL-4 production was almost undetectable in all subjects in this study. However, at reassessment the CMA patients who had acquired clinical tolerance to cow's milk (n = 16) showed enhanced IFN-gamma production, when compared with that of control children, but still lower when compared with that of healthy adults. Our results indicate that the maturation of IFN-gamma producing T-cells is delayed in CMA, which could lead to a disturbance in the regulation of T-cell function. This defect might be an important etiologic factor for CMA.