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PLoS Med. 2019 Aug 6;16(8):e1002854. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002854. eCollection 2019 Aug.

Impact of nutritional supplementation during pregnancy on antibody responses to diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccination in infants: A randomised trial in The Gambia.

Author information

1
Kings' College London, Department of Women and Children's Health, St Thomas' Hospital, London, United Kingdom.
2
MRC Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Banjul, The Gambia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Exposure to a nutritionally deficient environment during fetal life and early infancy may adversely alter the ontogeny of the immune system and affect an infant's ability to mount an optimal immune response to vaccination. We examined the effects of maternal nutritional supplementation during pregnancy on infants' antibody responses to the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine included in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).

METHODS AND FINDINGS:

The Early Nutrition and Immune Development (ENID) trial was a randomised, partially blinded trial conducted between April 2010 and February 2015 in the rural West Kiang region of The Gambia, a resource-poor region affected by chronic undernutrition. Pregnant women (<20 weeks' gestation) with a singleton pregnancy (n = 875) were randomised to receive one of four supplements: iron-folic acid (FeFol; standard of care), multiple micronutrient (MMN), protein-energy (PE), or PE + MMN daily from enrolment (mean [SD] 13.7 [3.3] weeks' gestation) until delivery. Infants were administered the DTP vaccine at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age according to the Gambian Government protocol. Results for the primary outcome of the trial (infant thymic size) were described previously; here, we report on a secondary outcome, infant antibody response to vaccination. The effects of supplementation on mean DTP antibody titres measured in blood samples collected from infants at 12 weeks (n = 710) and 24 weeks (n = 662) were analysed with adjustment for confounders including maternal age, compliance to supplement, and infant sex and season. At 12 weeks, following a single dose of the vaccine, compared with FeFol (mean 95% confidence interval [CI]; 0.11 IU/mL, 0.09-0.12), antenatal supplementation with MMN or MMN + PE resulted in 42.4% (95% CI 20.1-64.6; p < 0.001) and 29.4% (6.4-52.5; p = 0.012) higher mean anti-diphtheria titres, respectively. Mean anti-tetanus titres were higher by 9.0% (5.5-12.5), 7.8% (4.3-11.4), and 7.3% (4.0-10.7) in MMN, PE, and PE + MMN groups (all, p < 0.001), respectively, than in the FeFol group (0.55 IU/mL, 0.52-0.58). Mean anti-pertussis titres were not significantly different in the FeFol, MMN, and PE + MNN groups but were all higher than in the PE group (all, p < 0.001). At 24 weeks, following all three doses, no significant differences in mean anti-diphtheria titres were detected across the supplement groups. Mean anti-tetanus titres were 3.4% (0.19-6.5; p = 0.038) higher in the PE + MMN group than in the FeFol group (3.47 IU/mL, 3.29-3.66). Mean anti-pertussis titres were higher by 9.4% (3.3-15.5; p = 0.004) and 15.4% (9.6-21.2; p < 0.001) in PE and PE + MMN groups, compared with the FeFol group (74.9 IU/mL, 67.8-82.8). Limitations of the study included the lack of maternal antibody status (breast milk or plasma) or prevaccination antibody measurements in the infants.

CONCLUSION:

According to our results from rural Gambia, maternal supplementation with MMN combined with PE during pregnancy enhanced antibody responses to the DTP vaccine in early infancy. Provision of nutritional supplements to pregnant women in food insecure settings may improve infant immune development and responses to EPI vaccines.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:

ISRCTN49285450.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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