Inheriting immunity

UBC researchers are studying how pregnant women who have been vaccinated can pass on antibodies to their baby.

The 2009 H1N1 outbreak may have played a role in ushering in this development in maternal and infant care. Because the pandemic spread quickly both Health Canada and the US Centers for Disease Control advised at-risk populations, including expectant mothers, to be vaccinated. An estimated 41% of Canadians followed the advice (including as estimated 47% of pregnant women).

The heightened awareness created by the H1N1 outbreak and the subsequent availability of new data, specifically from pregnant women and infants, are setting the stage for vaccination during pregnancy as a bona fide public health strategy. The newly available data, combined with decades of safety records from widely used vaccines and a positive shift in perception toward vaccinating pregnant women, have made it possible to attempt a large-scale clinical trial.

Dr Deborah Money, professor in UBC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, is leading the Vancouver portion of a national study using the pertussis vaccine. The research team is recruiting participants from across Canada to receive the vaccine during their 34th week of pregnancy and have their blood and breast milk collected and analyzed, along with the baby’s cord blood at the time of delivery.

If the results turn out to be what the team expects, a long list of infectious diseases, including influenza, pneumococcus, and meningitis, and potentially group B streptococcus, cytomegalovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus, could be a thing of the past.

To refer patients to the study, contact Lilija Berngards, Research Nurse at the Women’s Health Research Institute, by telephone at 604 875-2424 or visit for more information.

. Inheriting immunity. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 1, January, February, 2014, Page(s) 42 - News.

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