Breast-fed infants are less susceptible to gastroenteritis than bottle-fed infants. Antibodies against rotavirus, the major pathogen of infantile gastroenteritis, were sought in human sera, colostrum and milk specimens by immuno-fluorescence. An experimental murine-rotavirus model was established by infecting the second litters of dams 4 weeks after infecting their first litters. Antibodies were absent from human and murine colostrum and milk specimens despite being present in virtually all sera, and the second mouse litters were as susceptible as the first. The inability of rotavirus to infect adult human beings and mice may prevent the formation of gut-derived antibody-secreting lymphocytes in milk, and thus prevent transmission of passive immunity. The association of bottle-feeding with rotavirus gastroenteritis appears to be the result of increased opportunity for spread of infection rather than of the absence of specific protective antibody.


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