Whooping cough can cause serious disease, particularly in young infants. In the UK, and other countries around the world, it is recommended that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine in order to protect mothers and infants against whooping cough. Antibodies (protective proteins) are transferred across the placenta from the mother to the infant and protect the infant in the first months of life, before the infant is protected by infant whooping cough vaccination. There are concerns that high levels of maternal antibody in the infant at birth may prevent the infant from producing such a good response to their own vaccines.
There is a type of blood cell in the circulation called “T Follicular Helper” cells (or TFH cells for short.) These cells are thought to be important for how well the body produces the protective antibody proteins in response to vaccination. It is important to understand if vaccination in pregnancy can affect how well these specialised cells develop in the infant’s blood stream and therefore how well the infant responds to their own vaccines. Other specialised cells that are important to how well the infant responds to infections like whooping cough, such as “T” cells, may also potentially be affected by vaccination in pregnancy.
In this study, we will work with partners in Thailand who are already carrying out studies looking at whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy. We will work with samples that have already been collected, from infants born to vaccinated mothers and infants born to unvaccinated mothers. This will allow us to compare the infant’s cellular response to vaccination in these different groups of infants.
We hope that this study will improve our understanding of infant immunity and inform future vaccination strategies.
Dr Qibo Zhang
Senior Lecturer in Immunology
Institute of Infection and Global Health
University of Liverpool
Southampton, United Kingdom
Dr Elke Leuridan, University of Antwerp, Belgium
Prof. Yong Poovorawan, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
Project duration: 12 months