Cincinnati Children's Blog

A New Reason Why Newborns Can’t Fight Colds

A new study suggests there’s a good reason why newborns’ immune systems don’t fight off germs. Researchers from Cincinnati Children’s say an infant’s immune system is deliberately not doing battle with every germ that comes along so that “good” microbes have a chance to settle in.

Until now, it was widely believed that those new immune systems were just too weak to do the job.

Babies start acquiring their personal collection of microbes at birth. But it seems to take a few years for what scientists call our microbiome to fully form, according to Dr. Sing Sing Way, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Cincinnati Children’s.

The experiments, which were done in a lab with mice and blood samples from human infants’ umbilical cords, show that certain red blood cells rein in the newborn immune system. That could create a welcoming environment for beneficial microbes, the researchers say, in a way that an adult immune system can’t.

Read more about the study from National Geographic, NPR and Science Magazine.

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