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Free Content The influence of prematurity and low birthweight on transplacental antibody transfer in a rural West African population

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OBJECTIVETo determine the influence of prematurity and low birthweight (LBW) on transplacental antibody transfer.

METHODIn a physician-blinded, cross-sectional study of 213 mother–baby pairs in the labour ward of Bansang Hospital, The Gambia, paired maternal and cord serum samples were tested for specific IgG antibody titres for measles virus (MeV), herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), tetanus toxoid (TT) and diphtheria toxoid (DT) antigens using enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

RESULTSPrematurity was significantly associated with reduced placental antibody transfer for MeV, HSV1, TT, DT, RSV and VZV. Maternal antibody transfer for MeV, HSV1, TT, DT, RSV and VZV was significantly lower in neonates with LBW than in babies with adequate birthweight (ABW).

CONCLUSIONMaterno–foetal transfer of antibodies is impaired in prematurity and LBW babies in this Gambian population. Reduction in antibody transfer may further predispose these already vulnerable neonates to bacteria and viral infections. Therefore, alternative vaccination strategies, including earlier vaccination schedules, are needed to provide better protection to these young infants.

Keywords: The Gambia; low birthweight; maternal antibody transfer; neonates; prematurity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Medical Research Council, Fajara, The Gambia 2: Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2001


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