Infants born prematurely rapidly acquire immune functions after birth, equivalent to infants born at term, according to a new study published in Nature Communications (March). King’s College London researchers tracked infants born prior to the normative 32 weeks gestation period to assess their immune cell populations, capability to produce mediators, and other post-natal changes. The study concluded that most immunity is acquired rapidly after birth and, as such, infants born prematurely have capability to develop normal immune systems.
“All the infants’ immune profiles progressed in a similar direction as they aged, regardless of the number of weeks of gestation at birth. Babies born in earliest gestations — before 28 weeks — made a greater degree of movement over a similar time period to those born at later gestation. This suggests that preterm and term infants converge in a similar time frame, and immune development in all babies follows a set path after birth,” says Deena Gibbons, professor at King’s College London.