Mothers could transfer LIFE-LONG infection immunity through breast milk, mice investigate finds

Mothers were able to transfer LIFE-LONG infection protection to their children through breastfeeding, reveals & # 39; remarkable & # 39; research in mice

  • Researchers at the University of Cape Town found that immunity could be in recent years
  • Immunity was found to be transmitted in white blood cells instead of antibodies
  • The research was conducted on mice, but it could one day affect new vaccines
  • Breastfeeding is not a substitute for vaccines that are still of vital importance

According to scientists, immune protection that is passed on through breast milk could take years longer than expected.

Tests on mice found that mothers who had recovered from an infection could pass on their immunity through breast milk with long-lasting effects.

In one case, a baby mouse was protected against worm infection for their entire life, researchers said.

The find, & # 39; curious & # 39 ;, added another element to their understanding of how mothers affect their children's health.


However, they did not say the discovery was a substitute for vaccines and instead suggested that it could be used to improve jabs in the future.

Breastfeeding can pass on white blood cells from the mother to a baby and protect the young person against infections that the parent has already suffered (stock image)

Breastfeeding can pass on white blood cells from the mother to a baby and protect the young person against infections that the parent has already suffered (stock image)

Researchers from the University of Cape Town in South Africa said that the immunity was passed on in different cells of the mother than they had first expected.

Resistance to disease was passed on in white blood cells instead of antibodies – bacteria and virus destroying proteins – as previously assumed.

And while it was believed that immunity only applied to breastfeeding to protect newborns, the benefits lasted much longer in the mice in the study.


Vaccinations for various unpleasant and deadly diseases are provided to the NHS free of charge to children and teenagers.


Here is a list of all the pricks that someone should have at the age of 18 to ensure that they and others are protected throughout the country:

Eight weeks old

  • 6-in-1 vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B.
  • Pneumococcal (PCV)
  • rotavirus
  • Meningitis B

12 weeks old

  • Second doses of 6-in-1 and Rotavirus

16 weeks old

  • Third dose 6-in-1
  • Second doses of PCV and men. B

A year old

  • Hib / meningitis C
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Third dose of PCV and meningitis B

Two to eight years old

  • Annual child flu vaccine

Three years, four months old

  • Second dose of MMR
  • 4-in-1 pre-school booster for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough

12-13 years old (girls)

  • HPV (two doses within one year)

14 years old

  • 3-in-1 teenage booster for diphtheria, tetanus and polio
  • MenACWY

Source: NHS Choices


"As far as we know, this is the first demonstration that an infection prior to pregnancy can transmit lifelong cellular immunity to infants", said lead investigator Dr. William Horsnell.

& # 39; The work shows that exposure to an infection before pregnancy can lead to the transfer of long-term immunological benefits to her mother.

& # 39; This is remarkable and adds a new dimension to our understanding of how a mother can affect our health. & # 39;

There is no suggestion that this can have the same effect on humans and further tests are needed.

Approximately three-quarters of UK mothers breastfeed their babies, according to the NHS.


Healthcare said that breastfeeding can reduce a baby's risk of infection, diarrhea and vomiting, cot death, leukemia or heart disease in adulthood.

Breastfeeding could not replace the vaccines because it would require the mother to heal all the diseases that were vaccinated against him.

In the UK, babies are vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B, rotavirus and meningitis B.

The researchers in Cape Town suggested that their study could lead to children receiving immunity from their mothers before they were born.

Adam Cunningham, a professor at the University of Birmingham who was involved in the study, said: “We are particularly interested in how these findings can help design maternal vaccine strategies that protect children in the longer term.

& # 39; This work shows that exposure of the mother to an infection can permanently change the immunity of offspring.

& # 39; At present, vaccination of mothers to protect babies against infection is very important for stimulating the protection of infections for newborns, but this protection is considered temporary.

& # 39; Our work shows that this effect can also be permanent. This could lead to the design of new vaccines that can be given to a mother to transfer long-term immunity to her children. & # 39;

The research is published in the journal Science Advances.


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