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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2004 Sep 1;42(1):21-33.

Development of mucosal immunity in the first year of life and relationship to sudden infant death syndrome.

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Department of Immunology, Hunter Area Pathology Service, John Hunter Hospital, Locked Bag #1, Hunter Region Mail Center, NSW, 2310, Australia.


The common mucosal immune system (CMIS) is an interconnecting network of immune structures that provides effective immunity to mucosal surfaces. The structures of the mucosal immune system are fully developed in utero by 28 weeks gestation, but in the absence of intrauterine infection, activation does not occur until after birth. Mucosal immune responses occur rapidly in the first weeks of life in response to extensive antigenic exposure. Maturation of the mucosal immune system and establishment of protective immunity varies between individuals but is usually fully developed in the first year of life, irrespective of gestational age at birth. In addition to exposure to pathogenic and commensal bacteria, the major modifier of the developmental patterns in the neonatal period is infant feeding practices. A period of heightened immune responses occurs during the maturation process, particularly between 1 and 6 months, which coincides with the age range during which most cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) occur. A hyper-immune mucosal response has been a common finding in infants whose death is classified as SIDS, particularly if in association with a prior upper respiratory infection. Inappropriate mucosal immune responses to an otherwise innocuous common antigen and the resulting inflammatory processes have been proposed as factors contributing to SIDS.

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