Altered cord blood γδ T cell repertoire in Nigeria: Possible impacts of environmental factors on neonatal immunity

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Infectious diseases during pregnancy can impact the development of fetal immunity, leading to reduced neonatal resistance to infection and decreased responses to pediatric vaccines. Plasmodium falciparum causes placental infection in low parity pregnant women and is among the pathogens that affect fetal immunity. Recognizing the relationship between malaria and γδ T lymphocytes in adults, we asked whether neonatal γδ T cells would be altered in malaria-endemic regions as a marker for changes in fetal immunity. Our initial studies compared cord blood γδ T cells from deliveries to HIV− mothers in Jos (Nigeria) where malaria is endemic, or in Rome (Italy). We noted substantial differences in the Vγ2 repertoire for cord blood collected in Jos or Rome; differences were consistent with a negative selection mechanism operating on the fetal Vγ2 chain repertoire in neonates from Jos. A specific disruption affected the fraction of γδ T cells that we expect will respond to Bacille Calmette–Guerin (BCG). Fetal γδ T cell depletion might be a mechanism for impaired neonatal immunity and lowered responses to pediatric vaccines.

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