The possible role of cows' milk protein in prolonging diarrhoea in very young infants with acute infective enteritis was studied in 14 infants, 9 under the age of 2 months and 5 older than 6 months. Bacterial pathogens were isolated from the stools of 4 infants from the younger age group. After appropriate initial treatment the infants were maintained on a cows' milk protein-free formula. 6 weeks later jejunal biopsies were performed before and 24 hours after challenge with a low lactose cows' milk protein formula. The immunoglobulin and complement levels in the serum and duodenal juice were also estimated at these times. Attempts to isolate bacterial and viral pathogens in stools were again made in all patients. The 5 older infants clinically tolerated cows' milk protein and their pre- and postchallenge jejunal biopsies were within normal limits. However, significant histological changes were observed in the postchallenge jejunal biopsies of all 9 infants under 2 months of age. In addition, 5 of these infants developed diarrhoea. This suggests that the jejunal mucosa of very young infants previously fed a cows' milk protein-based formula and who contract infective enteritis suffers damage when rechallenged with cows' milk protein.
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