Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have identified a potent compound that could potentially make vaccines effective in newborns right after birth.
Children are not just small adults, so the medical saying goes. And when it comes to vaccines, newborns are not just small children, since neonates lack most aspects of the normal immune response. This means that babies must wait two months before they can be immunized, leaving them vulnerable to potentially severe infections like rotavirus, persussis and pneumococcus. This two month window of vulnerability is important. As the researchers point out in their study, published in online journal PlOS ONE, over 2 million infants under the age of 6 months die due to infection per year globally.
It's no surprise, therefore, that for the past decade there's been a focus on understanding the differences between the immune systems of neonates and adults. If the immune system of a neonate is underdeveloped, how can a vaccine induce an immune response?
The answer, it seems, could be to target a toll-like receptor that does appear on the newborn's white blood cells. The researchers used a novel TLR8 agonist known as VTX-294 to augment the immune response in white blood cells taken from cord blood samples. VTX-294, which was one of a series of benzazepines being trialled, was able to potently stimulate the newborn immune system and induce robust production of TNF and IL- Î² cytokines. The study adds hope to TLR8 agonists one day being added as an adjuvant to vaccines administered to newborns in the first two months of life.
“This one receptor seems to lead to more adult-like responsesâ€”immediate, short-term responses that are more appropriate for fighting infections,” said David Dowling, PhD, co-first author on the study, in a press release. “We’re excited about the benzazepines because they are already in the clinical pipeline. That advances the potential for using them in a clinical study in human newborns, once they have been proven safe in animal studies.”
Do you think TLR8 agonists are solving an important issue?
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If you'd like to know more about strategy and innovation in vaccines, you might like to consider attending the World Vaccine Congress and Expo 2013 on the 16-18 April 2013, Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, Washington DC. You can download the brochure here.