Boosting Newborns' Immune Responses

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Vaccines for newborn immune system

Newborn babies have immature immune systems, making them highly vulnerable to severe infections and unable to mount an effective immune response to most vaccines, thereby frustrating efforts to protect them. Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston now believe they have found a way to enhance the immune system at birth and boost newborns' vaccine responses.

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In a study published in the online edition of the journal Blood on April 25, Ofer Levy, MD, PhD and colleagues in Children's Division of Infectious Diseases show that the newborn immune system functions differently than that of adults, but that one portion of the immune response is fully functional and can be harnessed to boost immunity in these tiny infants, possibly making infections like respiratory syncytial virus, pneumococcus, pertussis, HIV and rotavirus much less of a threat.

For about a decade it's been known that people's first line of defense against infection is a group of receptors known as Toll-like receptors (TLRs) on the surface of certain white blood cells. Functioning like an early radar system, TLRs detect the presence of invading bacteria and viruses and trigger production of "danger signals"

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