Medical articles on neonatal immunity, habitually refer to a baby’s immune system as "defective"; "impaired"; "slow"; "inadequate"; "compromised" or "deficient". Usually they end with the suggestion to add exogenous compounds to “correct X defect”. Even better, to manipulate and correct them all, making a baby’s immune system “perfect” in their human understanding.
Arstechnica editorialised on a letter in Nature, in which doctors had figured out that, “ Keeping the immune system in check helps the development of healthy gut bacteria.”
The authors were surprised to find that….
“For their part, the infants seem to be tamping down their immune response to allow the beneficial bacteria to establish themselves. Obviously, this also makes them more susceptible to infection from dangerous bacteria as well, so developing a healthy microbiome is a bit of a tradeoff. The authors of the Cincinnati hospital study call it "unfortunate by-product of the greater benefits of active suppression during this crucial developmental period, when tolerance to commensal microbes is more uniformly advantageous."
Having realised there is a good reason for this immune system tamping down, they swept on to a new grand fallacy that hyporesponsiveness to infection is itself, still a defect!
“Newborn infants are highly susceptible to infection. This defect in host defence has generally been ascribed to the immaturity of neonatal immune cells; however, the degree of hyporesponsiveness is highly variable and depends on the stimulation conditions. These discordant responses illustrate the need for a more unified explanation for why immunity is compromised in neonates.”
The authors realise they have to rethink when they say, “This finding challenges the idea that the susceptibility of neonates to infection reflects immune-cell-intrinsic defects and instead highlight processes that are developmentally more essential and inadvertently mitigate innate immune protection.”
Inadvertently? Really??? If this first finding challenges an idea found to be false, to the extent that they see a need for a more unified explanation (translation - "We actually don't know what we are looking at..."), ... shouldn't the authors be challenging all their other potentially faulty assumptions?
The Nature letter describes how the baby “physiologically enriches” it's own adult CD71 cells with an enzyme called arginase-2, which in turn, dampens macrophage, granulocyte, TLR, and lymphocyte function leaving them fully mature and capable, but purposefully rendered temporarily non-functional.
There is a process during and after birth, which is very relevant to why a baby’s immune system must be dampened down. To keep it simple, this is what happens:
1) Baby comes down the vagina, picking up the mother’s vaginal flora as an initial “bacterial inoculation” to skin, nose, ears and inside the mouth.
2) By the time the baby is born, all those bacteria, viruses etc, are not only in the mouth, but spreading through the mucosal membranes and into the gut.
3) The baby is put to the breast, and receives what I call pre-colostrum. It’s a crystal clear slightly sticky fluid, which has a slightly blue tinge, and I believe its function is to flush down these bacteria and help “glue” them to all intestinal surfaces from the small intestine to the rectum.
4) On day two or three, the deep yellow colostrum becomes established in the breast. The colostrum adds special substances which encourage certain bacteria to flourish and others to die off. The pH of a breastfed baby is very different from that of a formula fed baby. Colostrum also provides the next layer of immune system instruction, via immunological substances, which “nurture” and educate the correct bacteria, flush out the incorrect bacteria, and shift the dark meconium deposits off the wall of the colon, then providing a huge array of immune system agents, all of which perform vital innate immune functions in a baby which is experiencing massive physiological shifts in metabolism, gene expression and immune function.
5) By day 5 to 7, colostrum has ‘matured’ to a compound which is named “breast milk” .
While Elahi et al are so worried about a baby’s immune system being "deficient" and unable to fight bacterial infections efficiently, the forgotten answer to that problem, is the fact that the mother provides a floating, permeating immune system passively... via breast milk.
Breast milk is a continuum of blood and an extension of in-utero growth, which orchestrates the baby's immune system for the duration of breastfeeding. Breast milk is unique, and its enormous scope of action is vastly under-appreciated by most immunologists, including the authors of this article.
Breast milk takes on the role of dealing with anything "inflammatory", which helps protect the baby from bacterial and other infections, allowing the baby’s own immune system to stay quiet. The restrictions the baby put on to the "adult's" immune system to protect itself, are gradually removed.
Ideally, a baby should be breastfed for two years because breastfeeding lays down a complete physiological foundation which promotes better overall health, even when that person is 80 years old.
And it should come as no surprise to immunologists who know the medical literature, that formula fed babies have far more infections in the first two years of life, and the detrimental effects of formula are also felt for life, with higher rates of obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer and many chronic diseases in adults who were not breastfed.
In the Nature article, the authors say that there was a “remarkable diversity in gene expression among neonatal erythroid precursor cells compared with adult erythroid precursor cells.”
Note that. “Gene expression” is the open book of the "instruction manual" for the neonatal immune system.
Fact: A baby’s immune system is no more “hypo-responsive” than is a four year old's inability to get pregnant, or a newborn's inability to send a text message.
The fact that the baby’s splenocytes and enriched CD71 erythroid cells, actively seek out and aggressively shut down inflammatory immune system components which threaten the baby’s survival, is not a "defect", nor is it something “missing, .... neither is it “inadvertent”. The fact is that if need be, the immune system can and does respond aggressively to infection, but to respond aggressively to infection can come at a price to the baby.
God did not make a mistake, contrary to the thinking of immunologists who have yet to figure out "a unified explanation" describing the immune system of an adult, let alone a neonate....
FACT: The neonatal immune system is a masterpiece of design and is completely AGE APPROPRIATE.
This first finding published in Nature, should have alerted the authors to the fact that ... a baby does not possess “discordant responses”. A baby’s immune system is not COMPROMISED in any way at all. In fact as the experiments in the letter showed, when you put adult's cells in with those neonatal cells, the powerful extra suppressive programming of the neonatal cells prevails.
In mice, the damping down is completely gone by three weeks of age. The equivalent mouse/human time frame is at least 2 years. Immunologists know that bacterial invasive disease vaccines in neonates have to be specially formulated or they won't work before the age of 2 yrs, .... because a baby's immune system is "different".
The Nature authors don't appear to have considered that there might be another very good reason why the human neonatal immune system is suppressed for a much longer time than a few days.
For what purpose?
From birth through the next year or more, a breast fed baby receives eaten and breathed antigens and allergens processed inside the mother, via her breast milk. All these potential troublemakers are wrapped safely into neutrophils, sent to the mother’s breast milk, and are presented to a baby in a parcel with a immunological message written on the outside which says, “this is safe – next time you recognise this, do not see it as a problem. This is not supposed to hurt you, so in future see it as safe.” Formula fed babies just have to make do.
The author’s conclusions stated that this "defective" ability of the baby to fight infection is:
“an unfortunate by-product of the greater benefits of active suppression during this crucial development period, when tolerance to commensal microbes is more uniformly advantageous. We anticipate that these finding will spur renewed investigation of why neonatal protection against infection is compromised, as well as study of THERAPEUTIC APPROACHES aimed at DISSOCIATING THE BENEFICIAL AND HARMFUL effects of CD71+ cells for augmenting host defence in this vulnerable population.”
Their stated intent is still to “correct” what they see as “defective”, hopefully without messing anything else in the process. When they tried to correct the first step in their study, it backfired. The good bacteria, instead of being accepted by the full on immune system, turned around and set up massive inflammation when driven by the adult system. The researchers' problem is that by their own admission, they don't have a "unified" handle on what the "anything" else is.
I have more questions along that line:
What say there is a much MUCH broader picture involving a damped down immune system, than “just” allowing gut flora to settle in the first week of life, and teaching allergen and environmental "tolerance" over a few months?
What say an “anti-inflammatory” phenotype over a longer period, is intimately linked with optimum brain development in the first two years of life?
Do regular vaccine injections from birth onwards, alter this neonatal default setting of an anti-inflammatory programming - instead forcing the immune system to respond to many things in a “pro-inflammatory” way, causing unwanted effects and creating health problems?
Can vaccines FORCE the baby’s immune system to become HYPER-reactive to environmental signals, just like the mice became, when the neonatal arginase-2 enriched dampening influence on the CD71 cells, was removed?
Might vaccines change the core immune epigenetic programming, and create an unwanted PRO-inflammatory phenotype contrary to the 'maker's manual'?
If so, ....are vaccines, antibiotics and drugs like paracetamol which alter the immune system, the cause of the huge increase in allergies, asthma, neurological disorders, and chronic ill-health in children, which was rarely seen in the days of our grandparents?
Part one: Vaccines and neonatal immune development.
Part two: How a baby fights infection and develops the immune system. (This blog is about breast milk, and you will find full text medical articles embedded in the blog)
Part three: Can vaccines become cranial and immunological cluster bombs?
(P.S. The above three parts were written in 2011, before Elahi's letter to Nature. Other than the fact that immunologists are still grappling to understand the basics of neonatal immunology, the one fact that has changed is that now we have proof that a baby doesn't have a partially formed "defective" immune system. Now we know that babies have a fully functional immune system which is carefully programmed to provide a non-inflammatory transition into toddlerhood, in order to improve survival chances.)