Passive Immunity: How mothers pass on antibodies to their children
Maternal passive immunity is a naturally acquired type of immunity among fetuses and infants where the mother’s antibodies are transferred to the fetus through the placenta or through breastfeeding. The passing on of antibodies to the fetus usually occurs in the third month of pregnancy. At this stage, the baby does not have to produce antibodies itself since it is given from the mothers system. These antibodies are special proteins produced by the mother’s immune system to protect the body against viruses and infections.
The type of antibodies produced often depends on the immunity of the mother. The amount of antibodies passed to the infant also depends on the mother’s immunity levels. This is why maintaining a good immunity is crucial before and during pregnancy. The infant may also receive passive immunity through colostrums. Studies have shown that breast milk contains some forms of antibodies, which are transferred to the gut of the infant to protect against bacterial infections. These antibodies will function until the body is able to create its own antibodies. Maternal passive immunity lasts between four to six months after birth although babies who are breastfed maintain their maternal passive immunity for longer.
Although mothers pass on antibodies that protect the baby against infection, immunization is still necessary shortly after birth to prevent disease such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and polio among others. Sometimes the maternal antibodies prevent the induction of the protective vaccine responses in the first year. With time, secondary responses, that booster immunization will take over to counter this effect. Even though premature babies are often at highly risk of developing illness since they do not have enough antibodies passed to the, immunization after two months applies whether the baby was full term or premature. Immunization is often given for diseases to which passive immunity decreases the fastest.
The B lymphocyte cells are responsible for the production of antibodies. The foreign proteins that trigger the production of antibodies are referred to as antigens. The anybodies make it easier for the phagocytes to recognize and destroy the antigens; Monoclonal antibodies are used as a molecular tool based on the antibody-epitope relationship. Antibodies only bind to particular epitope and the epitope can bind the antibody on its own even if the whole antigen molecule is not present.
In research, monoclonal antibodies have a variety of academic, medical and commercial use. In biotechnology these antibodies are used in diagnostic tests to detect presence of toxins, drugs and hormones in blood, they are also used in radioimmunodetection and radioimmunotherapy of cancer, treatment of viral diseases, classify strains of pathogens or identify specific cells or molecules in an organism. Antibodies that have been produced for research are widely available online through bio-resource websites. These are specifically designed for research and should not be used for diagnostic, prophylactic or in vivo use. High quality, purity and specificity are crucial if you want to get the best research results.
Dr. Juniper Lee is a pharmaceutical research analyst in the production of vaccines and immunization drugs. To find out more about monoclonal antibodies, visit mybiosource.com