1. Residual antigenic protein in heat-denatured cow's milk whey and in two commercial infant milk formulas was determined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays specific for β-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, bovine serum albumin, bovine IgG1 and α-casein. This immunochemical assessment of antigenicity was related to the capacity of the preparations to sensitize immunologically when fed to guinea-pigs for 2 weeks. Antibody production was measured and the susceptibility of the animals to systemic anaphylaxis was assessed by injecting them intravenously with heated or unheated milk proteins.
2. Whey protein that had been heated at 100° or 115° for 30 min was extensively denatured and, in contrast to pasteurized whey, failed to sensitize guinea-pigs for anaphylaxis. Antibody production was undetected or very low. The proteins in SMA powder and SMA Gold Cap liquid concentrate were less denatured and animals given these formulas prepared according to the maker's instructions produced relatively high levels of antibodies to β-lactoglobulin and α-casein and a majority developed anaphylaxis when injected intravenously with these products.
3. As well as failing to sensitize, whey that had received severe heat treatment did not, in most cases, elicit anaphylaxis when injected into animals that had been sensitized with unheated milk.
4. Discrimination between antibodies of the IgG1 and IgG2 subclasses specific for β-lactoglobulin showed that IgG1, the principal anaphylactic antibody in guinea-pigs, was preferentially depressed in animals drinking heat-denatured milk preparations.
5. The results suggest that heat denaturation of whey protein may be a logical and simple strategy for producing a hypoallergenic baby milk. Nevertheless, the value of experiments in guinea-pigs for predicting results in man is uncertain and the proposal awaits assessment in clinical trials.