Why prematurely born babies are more susceptible to infection


In a recent study, scientists figured out why prematurely born infants’ immune systems don’t function as well as they should after delivery. There is a greater chance of complications that could be life-threatening the sooner the infants are delivered.

Among the most common reasons of mortality, infections frequently result in sepsis. An immunostimulatory signalling pathway is repressed in the developing immune system, according to the study. They have investigated the processes that contribute to this instability. They examined the gene activity of neutrophils in the umbilical lead blood of premature and full-term infants with that of adult neutrophils using a procedure known as transcriptomic analysis. Premature and full-term babies have significantly more gene activity that inhibits immune protection than adults do. These neutrophils behave as though they are turned off in this situation.

This has a special impact on signals that are sent through the NF-B signalling system, which is crucial for immune and inflammatory reactions. It has two potential signal pathways: one that can inhibit inflammation and the other that can increase it.

Maturation-adapted treatments are theoretically possible but are still a long way off at this time due to the intricate processes in the developing foetal and newborn body.

Journal article: Ina Rohwedder, I, et a., 2023. A20 and the noncanonical NF-κB pathway are key regulators of neutrophil recruitment during fetal ontogeny. JCI Insight.

Summary by Stefan Botha

International Union of Immunological SocietiesUniversity of South AfricaInstitute of Infectious Disease and Molecular MedicineElizabeth Glazer Pediatric Aids Foundation