Background. Many studies have documented lower vaccine efficacy among children in low-income countries, compared with their counterparts in high-income countries. This disparity is especially apparent with respect to oral vaccines such as rotavirus and oral polio vaccines. One potential contributing factor is the presence of maternal antenatal helminth infections, which can modulate the infant's developing immune system.
Methods. Using a multiplex immunoassay, we tested plasma immunoglobulin A (IgA) or immunoglobulin G (IgG) levels specific for antigens in 9 routinely administered childhood vaccines among 1639 children aged approximately 13 months enrolled in the ECUAVIDA (Ecuador Life) birth cohort study in Ecuador. We compared vaccine responses in 712 children of mothers who tested positive for helminth infections in the last trimester of pregnancy to responses in 927 children of mothers without helminth infection.
Results. Plasma IgA levels specific for antigens in rotavirus vaccine and oral polio vaccine containing poliovirus serotypes 1 and 3 were all significantly higher in children of helminth-infected mothers, compared with children of uninfected mothers. Plasma IgG levels specific for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, rubella, and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine antigens were comparable between the 2 groups.
Conclusions. Antenatal maternal helminth infections were not associated with reduced antibody responses to infant vaccines, but rather with modestly increased IgA responses to oral vaccines.