Newborn infants, born either at term or prematurely, lack a DNA net, called a neutrophil extracellular trap (NET), cast by mature white blood cells to fight severe infection, reveals a new study.
According to the study's lead author Christian C. Yost, M.D., assistant professor of paediatrics, University of Utah, the ability to form this "death" NET is not present in the white blood cells of the newborns.
The boffins believe this may offer an explanation as to why millions of infants across the world face a higher risk for a potentially deadly blood infection, such as sepsis, which takes place in up to 25 percent of newborns in some parts of the globe.
Yost said: "Neonatal neutrophil dysfunction-a term for these white blood cell abnormalities-affects many infants, because there are so many premature births across the globe. It's a huge public health issue."
The neonatal intensive care physician, and his team examined small amounts of umbilical cord blood from 16 premature babies born at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
They discovered that the infants' white blood cells called neutrophils did not dispatch the nuclear mixture and hence the defect in NET formation, which is responsible for capturing and killing bacteria invading the human body.
Yost said: "There was no evidence at all that infant neutrolphils make the NETs. Certainly, nuetrophils from premature babies don't make them."
Yost along with senior author Guy A. Zimmerman, M.D, suspected the cause for the defect may arise from lack of one or more important factors in the regulatory mechanisms that manage the NET-generating process.
It was further thought that these aspects did not had the time to develop in the neutrophils of newborns-particularly premature infants.
The study was published online in the journal Blood.