Pre-conception maternal helminth infection transfers via nursing long-lasting cellular immunity against helminths to offspring

Journal: Science Advances

Published: 2019-05-01

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3058

Affiliations: 13

Authors: 17

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Research Highlight

Lifelong benefits of breastfeeding

© Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty

© Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty

Mothers exposed to infections before pregnancy could transfer lifelong immunity to their children through breastfeeding.

Breastmilk is an important source of proteins that protect newborn babies against viruses, but it was thought that the benefits only last throughout nursing.

A team that included researchers from the University of Cape Town infected female mice with a parasitic worm two weeks before allowing them to reproduce. Some of the resultant litter breastfed from the previously infected mother, while the rest fed from healthy females.

The researchers then exposed each mouse worm infection throughout their lives. Only mice who had nursed from an infected parent acquired lifelong resistance to the worm. The breastmilk had passed on the mother’s newly adapted anti-worm immune cells (T-cells), which trained the offspring’s immune system to fight off that particular parasite.

Understanding how pre-pregnancy infections affects children’s health could lead to new vaccines for future mothers to help protect their progeny.

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  1. Science Advances 5, eaav3058 (2019). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3058
Institutions Share
University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa 0.37
Laboratory of Molecular and Experimental Immunology and Neurogenetics (INEM), France 0.13
Le Studium - Loire Valley Institute for Advanced Studies, France 0.13
University of Birmingham (UB), United Kingdom (UK) 0.13
University of Liège (ULg), Belgium 0.12
University Medical Center Mainz, JGU, Germany 0.06
Cardiff University, United Kingdom (UK) 0.02
University of Washington (UW), United States of America (USA) 0.02
ICGEB Cape Town, South Africa 0.01
South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), South Africa 0.01