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Immunity. 2017 Mar 21;46(3):350-363. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2017.03.009.

Protecting the Newborn and Young Infant from Infectious Diseases: Lessons from Immune Ontogeny.

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Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada and BC Children's Hospital 938 W 28(th) Ave, A5-175, Vancouver, BC V5Z4H4. Electronic address:
Centre of International Child Health, Department of Paediatrics, Imperial College London, UK and MRC Unit The Gambia, West Africa.
Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 1200 E California Bl. (Mailcode: 156-29), Pasadena CA 91125, USA.
Institute for Medical Immunology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 6041 Gosselies, Belgium.
Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Precision Vaccines Program, Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. Electronic address:


Infections in the first year of life are common and often severe. The newborn host demonstrates both quantitative and qualitative differences to the adult in nearly all aspects of immunity, which at least partially explain the increased susceptibility to infection. Here we discuss how differences in susceptibility to infection result not out of a state of immaturity, but rather reflect adaptation to the particular demands placed on the immune system in early life. We review the mechanisms underlying host defense in the very young, and discuss how specific developmental demands increase the risk of particular infectious diseases. In this context, we discuss how this plasticity, i.e. the capacity to adapt to demands encountered in early life, also provides the potential to leverage protection of the young against infection and disease through a number of interventions.

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