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13 - 02 - 2018

How to effectively vaccinate newborns?

In vitro studies on umbilical cord blood and in vivo in mice show that BCG can improve the efficacy of vaccines in newborns.


Infectious diseases account for 40% of all deaths in children under five. Vaccination is the solution to protect them. But the immunity of a newborn at term or premature has peculiarities which reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and compel to repeat injections.


BCG is often given in newborns along with other vaccines, such as the hepatitis B vaccine, to increase their effectiveness. Clinical trials have validated the use of BCG for this use, but it is difficult to understand how it works.


To move forwards in this field, researchers have conducted a series of in vitro tests on immune cells of adult or umbilical cord blood, and in vivo in adult and newborn mice. They studied the effect of administering a hepatitis B vaccine alone, BCG alone or both at the same time on these different biological models.


They discovered that the administration of both vaccines at the same time increased:

  • production of interleukin-1 beta in the cord blood, but not in adult blood. Interleukin-1beta is important for the immune response
  • the level of anti-hepatitis B antibodies in the newborn at term or premature, but not in the adult mouse.




These results indicate that the co-administration of the BCG and the hepatitis B vaccines to prematures or newborns induces an immunizing effect that is not found in adults. BCG should be studied as an immunizing adjuvant to protect these vulnerable populations.