22 December 2016

Human newborn B cells mount an IFN-β-dependent humoral response to RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common cause of bronchiolitis in which B cells play an important role. RSV infections are a high burden in the current health care system, in particular for young infants. A key mediator of the anti-viral immune response is a cytokine called interferon beta (IFN-β). Little is known about the effects of viral infections and IFN-β on B cells responses in newborns.

Jop Jans and Gerben Ferwerda, theme Infectious diseases and global health are collaborating with the Levy Laboratory at Harvard Medical School in Boston to investigate the topic of innate humoral responses in newborns. In their current paper, they characterize the effect of RSV and IFN-β on newborn and adult B cells. They show that newborns mount an IFN-β-mediated B cell response against RSV that is comparable to adult responses. Remarkably, human newborn plasma contains functional RSV-IgM that can reduce RSV infection of epithelial cells. The observed IFN-β-mediated activation of newborn B cells underlines the importance of the inflammatory environment containing IFN-β during respiratory tract infections.

This study shows us the potency of IFN-β to activate newborn B cells. We believe that the identification of IFN-β as a potent activator can be used to better understand neonatal infections and may provide opportunities for novel therapeutics such as newborn vaccination. In addition, the presence of neutralizing RSV-IgM in newborn plasma provides fresh insights into early life host defense against RSV.

Jop Jans (first author), Gerben Ferwerda (senior author), theme Infectious diseases and global health, and colleagues published their findings in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
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