Research ArticleIMMUNOLOGY

Pre-conception maternal helminth infection transfers via nursing long-lasting cellular immunity against helminths to offspring

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Science Advances  29 May 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 5, eaav3058
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3058

Abstract

Maternal immune transfer is the most significant source of protection from early-life infection, but whether maternal transfer of immunity by nursing permanently alters offspring immunity is poorly understood. Here, we identify maternal immune imprinting of offspring nursed by mothers who had a pre-conception helminth infection. Nursing of pups by helminth-exposed mothers transferred protective cellular immunity to these offspring against helminth infection. Enhanced control of infection was not dependent on maternal antibody. Protection associated with systemic development of protective type 2 immunity in T helper 2 (TH2) impaired IL-4Rα−/− offspring. This maternally acquired immunity was maintained into maturity and required transfer (via nursing) to the offspring of maternally derived TH2-competent CD4 T cells. Our data therefore reveal that maternal exposure to a globally prevalent source of infection before pregnancy provides long-term nursing-acquired immune benefits to offspring mediated by maternally derived pathogen-experienced lymphocytes.

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