Study: why are pregnant women much more susceptible to flu infections?

Study: why are pregnant women much more susceptible to flu infections?

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Immune system changes in pregnancy
The female body is subject to numerous natural changes during pregnancy, which also affect the immune system. This can have some advantages, but also considerable disadvantages for women. Scientists from the Medical Faculty of the University of Hamburg and the Heinrich Pette Institute are now working in a special research group on changes in the immune system during pregnancy and their effects on mother and child.

According to the researchers, they want to find out "how the carefully balanced balance of immune cells and hormones, which is activated during maternal adaptation to pregnancy, is of advantage or disadvantage for maternal health." They also try "to understand How prenatal stress or taking medication can be detrimental to the unborn child and increase the risk of immune diseases later in life for these children, ”said the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).

Visible and invisible changes in pregnancy
During pregnancy, the body of a pregnant woman changes both visibly and invisibly, the doctors explain. So the maternal immune system develops an immunological tolerance against the fetus. The rejection of the fetus is suppressed by the specific adaptation of the maternal immune system during pregnancy. The adaptation is based on an interaction of pregnancy hormones and immune cells and contributes to a complication-free course of pregnancy up to the birth of the child.

Benefits in autoimmune diseases
By adapting the immune system during pregnancy, there are also considerable health benefits. For example, according to the researchers, the activity of pre-existing maternal autoimmune diseases can improve significantly. This applies, for example, to multiple sclerosis (MS). "There is currently no medication to treat MS that can relieve MS symptoms comparable to pregnancy," the UKE said. Here, pregnancy can also be seen as a model that contributes to an improved understanding of the causes and treatment options for autoimmunity.

Increased susceptibility to infections
On the other hand, according to the researchers, pregnant women are also affected by a significant health disadvantage because they are highly susceptible to infections. For example, they get infected much more easily with the flu virus and infection during pregnancy can be very dangerous for the mother and the unborn child. An effect that should also be explored in the research work.

Lifelong consequences for the children
In addition, other factors during pregnancy, such as maternal stress and medication, can have disadvantages for the health of children in later life, the doctors report. These disadvantages are, for example, "limited vaccination protection, a frequent occurrence of infections in early age or a high risk of chronic immune diseases such as allergies and asthma in children later in life." .

“We expect our results to form the basis for the discovery of new biomarkers,” the researchers report. The findings could also be used to develop a “pregnancy-like” immune response for the treatment of patients with MS and to reduce the risk of serious infections for pregnant women and their unborn children. Last but not least, guidelines for the identification of unborn or newborn children with a high risk of immune diseases later in life are to be developed in order to reduce the risk of these children as early as possible, the researchers report. (fp)

Author and source information

Video: Study Indicates Pregnant Women Should Get Flu Vaccine (July 2022).


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