[Immunology] What causes maternal antibodies to break down in a newborn?

Alan Bradbury via immuno%40net.bio.net (by abradbury from taptonschool.co.uk)
Fri Dec 12 04:36:26 EST 2008

I hope somebody can help with this.
A recent exam question for A level (16-18 year olds) in the UK had a question asking why passive immunity in newborns is short lived.  The answer expected was that a newborn will recognise the maternal antibodies as foreign and have an immune response to them.  This just didn't sound right to me. I have tried to do some internet research on the question and it seems that the half-life of maternal antibodies is about 30 - 45 days. But I have not been able to find out what causes the removal of the maternal antibodies. I had assumed that it was just due to the natural turnover and breakdown of the antibodies that the infant might receive from its mother.
Am I right, or is the exam answer right?
Alan Bradbury (A level Biology teacher, UK).

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