There’s a reason why babies become ill so often – and it may not be because their immune systems are fragile. They’re just a bit forgetful.
Researchers have discovered that babies are frequently poorly because they have forgetful immune systems – not because they have weak immune cells, like previously believed.
A study, by Cornell University and published in the Journal of Immunology this month, found that in mice, a baby’s immune system responded to infection more quickly than adults. But the immune defenses that were built up by the baby mouse’s body did not last.
OK, so these findings do stem from research conducted on mice, but there might be something in it.
Babies are frequently poorly because they have forgetful immune systems, say experts
‘Surprisingly, we found that newborns’ cells actually responded more vigorously to infection compared to adults,’ says lead researcher Brian Rudd, an immunologist at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
‘We also found that newborns’ cells go through their lifespans more quickly and die off sooner, before they can give rise to memory T cells and remember what they’ve learned. So the immune system is forced to start the learning process over again when infected by the same pathogen later in life.’
Following these results, Brian and his team has suggested that a better approach to immunisations could be used to help protect babies and children from infectious diseases.
‘The perfect vaccine would be a single dose given at birth that generates long-lasting immunity,' says Brian. ‘No such vaccine exists because we haven’t understood why infants rapidly lose immunities. Our finding could change the way we immunise infants and ultimately lead to more effective ways of enhancing immunity in early life.’
Take a look at the vaccinations your baby will be offered during his first year of life to help him develop resistance to potentially harmful viruses.
Are you happy for your baby to receive every immunisation offered? Let us know in the comments box below.