neonate immunology

L.A. Pike-Nobile ez063669 at
Sat Mar 7 00:44:51 EST 1998

Well, you've got to consider at least two factors here: the immunity
received from nursing is mostly _passive_ immunity (although there is a
cellular component in breast milk, I think it's general agreed that
maternal antibodies are critical. 

Nursing certainly does not transfer all immunities--only those to which
the mother has circulating antibodies. Admittedly, these are likely to be
highly relevant. Moreover, maternal Ig does not reflect what the infant
may uniquely exposed to (this is not common, although kids in daycare
probably come in contact with things their mothers have no exposure
to--until their child infects them :). 

One of the more common defects in newborns is a transient inability to
produce their own antibodies in the first several months of life, putting
them at higher risk as antibodies they're revceived in utero and in lacto
have been catabolized (30-90 days). 

The other thing to consider is that a neonate's neutrophils (aka PMNs or
leukocytes) are markedly less functional and at lower numbers (I
believe). These guys really represents the first line of defense after
the skin and handle the primary response to many external threats.

So I'd say your instructor is right on this one. But, as a grad student, I
assume I've missed something critical that someone will helpfully point


On 7 Mar 1998, FLOIAM wrote:

> I need an answer!!  I am an undergraduate student and recently had a discussion
> with my instructor over the neonates natural immunity.  My instructor is of the
> opinion a neonate is at much higher risk to infection than say a toddler. I on
> the other end of the spectrum am under the impression that a breast feed
> neonate's immune system is as good or as bad as it's mother's. Someone please
> clarify. Any information/articles would be appreciated.

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