Pre-Term Exposure Patterns in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Alters Immunological Outcome in Neonates

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Advances in technology have lowered the limits of viability in premature births to 24 weeks of gestation. This brought forth a new population of children, who are born 3-4 months early and spent considerable amounts of time in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), instead of sterile environment of mother’s womb. Besides, other problems associated with prematurity, these children often undergo invasive procedures resulting in mucosal inflammation and/ or injury by feeding tubes, endotracheal tubes, and prolonged IV catheter. To test whether “ex-preemie-infants” were different than “term-infants” with regard to their immunity, preterm infants (< 32 weeks) and term infants (control) at the corrected age of 9-12 months were analyzed for their resting and stimulated immune responses. Preterm infants had a significant Th1 skewed response, higher number of activated and functionally competent T cells compared to term infants. The critical role of neonatal environmental exposure on immune system development is imminent; nevertheless detailed mechanistic studies on pathways are warranted.