Jun 10, 2022 - Health

Unlocking pregnancy super antibodies

Illustration of a crib sitting beneath a mobile with a hanging medical cross.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Mothers pass super antibodies to their newborn babies, and new research has confirmed how that works.

Why it matters: The discovery, made by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, could open the door for potential treatments or vaccinations to protect both pregnant people who become sick and their fetuses.

What they found: The study, published in Nature, identified the enzyme that allows common antibodies to take on an enhanced role.

Context: Babies are born with little to no immune system and protection against viruses, which Sing Sing Way, a pediatrician and study author calls the "window of vulnerability," during which infants are susceptible to disease and death.

  • This research opens the door to studies of how antibody treatments perform on pregnant patients with viruses that are good at evading drugs.
  • It also emphasizes the importance of vaccination in pregnant people.

The bottom line: "The immune system and antibodies in women during pregnancy offer way more protection than we ever gave them credit for," Way said.

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