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article imageVaccine being developed for babies

By Tim Sandle     Mar 6, 2013 in Science
A vaccine could be developed which aims to work in the bodies of new born babies. Currently most newborns do not respond well to vaccines, meaning potential delays in inoculations for particular babies against specific diseases.
Because the immune system of new born babies is underdeveloped, they do not respond well to vaccines (since most vaccines work by triggering an immune response). In most cases parents and doctors need to wait until the baby is two months old before vaccination can begin, according to the Daily Express. This potentially leaves newborns at risk from infection to diseases that are more prevalent amongst young children, such as pertussis (whooping cough).
Researchers based at Boston Children's Hospital, led by Ofer Levy, have identified a compound that activates immune responses in newborns' white blood cells in a way that appears more effective than anything previously tested. The compound is a synthetic small-molecule compound belonging to the group benzazepines. The specific compound is coded VTX-294 and it was provided to the research laboratory by VentiRx Pharmaceuticals.
This happens, as the research brief outlines, because the researcher have found one cellular receptor in the immune system of new born babies which responds to stimulation by the compound (called Toll-like receptor 8). These are part of the rapid immune response that provides the first defense against infections.
Essentially the compound allows most types of vaccine to work in the same way as they would in an older child.
The implication of this is that this could potentially lead to the development of vaccines suitable for new born babies. However, further research will be required and it is not known if the compound is effective in all types of vaccine. Animal studies will be required as part of the next phase of the research.
The findings have been published in the science journal PLoS One.
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