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J Pediatr. 2000 Jul;137(1):85-9.

Placental transfer and decay of varicella-zoster virus antibodies in preterm infants.

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Department of Neonatology, Schneider Children's Medical Center of Israel, Petah Tikva.



To compare the placental transfer of maternal varicella-zoster (VZV) antibodies to preterm and term infants and to investigate antibody decay during the first 6 months of life in the preterm infants.


Maternal and umbilical cord blood samples were taken from 113 healthy mother-newborn pairs: 64 term (gestational age > or =37 weeks) and 49 preterm (gestational age < or =35 weeks). Premature infants were further tested at 1, 2, and 6 months. Anti-VZV antibody to membrane antigen was measured with the immunofluorescent technique.


Preterm infants of gestational age < or =28 weeks had positive cord antibody and a geometric mean titer significantly lower than those in preterm infants of gestational age 29 to 35 weeks and term infants (25% vs 95% and 95%, respectively, P <.001 for each, and 2.5 +/- 2.2 vs 10.5 +/- 2.4 and 12.6 +/- 2.4, respectively, P <.001 for each). There was no difference between the preterm 29 to 35 weeks of gestation and term groups. Fetal-maternal ratios for both preterm groups were <1 and were significantly less than the fetal-maternal ratio in the term infants. The transfer of maternal antibodies to term infants was significantly greater than to the 29- to 35-week preterm infants (P =.01). At 2 months of age, 25% of 29- to 35-week preterm infants and no preterm infant < or =28 weeks had a positive titer. At 6 months of age, all preterm infants were seronegative, and the geometric mean titer in both groups declined to undetectable levels.


Transplacental transfer of maternal VZV antibodies is diminished in preterm infants. VZV antibody levels are significantly lower in preterm infants born at < or =28 weeks' gestational age compared with those in preterm infants 29 to 35 weeks' gestational age and term infants. Anti-VZV titers decrease to undetectable levels in preterm infants by 6 months of age or earlier; thus these infants appear to be susceptible to chickenpox before the scheduled 12-month vaccination.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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