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Research Article

Transplacental immunization of the human fetus to tetanus by immunization of the mother.

T J Gill, 3rd, C F Repetti, L A Metlay, B S Rabin, F H Taylor, D S Thompson and A L Cortese

Published September 1983

Experimental studies in rats showed that immunization of the pregnant female led to the transplacental immunization of her fetuses. The possibility that this also occurred in humans was explored by immunizing 42 pregnant women with tetanus toxoid (2.5 or 5 Lf) in the fifth and eighth months of pregnancy and comparing the immune responses of their offspring with the responses of the offspring of 25 unimmunized mothers. Only the offspring of the immunized mothers were sensitized to tetanus. IgM antitetanus antibodies were in their blood before immunization with diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus vaccine (DPT), they had a more rapid (P less than 0.01) response to DPT immunization, and they were still highly sensitized (P less than 0.01) to tetanus 13 mo after birth. In addition, pregnancy had no immunosuppressive effect (P less than 0.05) on the responses of the mothers to tetanus toxoid. Thus, transplacental immunization occurs in humans; it enhances the response of the offspring to subsequent immunization, and it could be used to circumvent the necessity for immunization in early neonatal life.

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