This study has been published in the Journal Blood, which is optimistic of bringing down the rates of infant mortality by advancing the vaccinations at birth itself. Immunologists from the Children's Hospital, Boston, have zeroed in on a molecule, called Toll-like receptor 8, which could be activated to strengthen the immune responses and enable vaccination.
Dr Ofer Levy, lead researcher on the study and an immunologist from Harvard Medical School, said: "These are exactly the kinds of responses you need to get good vaccine responses. We believe we have stumbled across the molecular holy grail of neonatal immunology."
Explaining about how these findings can have practical benefits, he said "In the Western world we tend to vaccinate babies at two, four and six months - this means that we leave a window of susceptibility. If we could come up with a way to get the system to work at birth, then you would close that window of susceptibility. And if a vaccine could be given at birth, you will achieve better vaccine coverage rates."
But Adam Finn, professor of pediatrics from Bristol University, said "This is an interesting observation about one aspect of a baby's immune system that appears to work quite well and which could, theoretically, be exploited to make vaccines more effective in the future. But it is important to remember that it is a preliminary observation."