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Wednesday 27 November 2019

Reproductive Immunology (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #7)

Morning sickness aside, I haven’t felt unwell during my pregnancy. Of course, winter is coming and that could all change, but I have prepared myself with influenza and whooping cough inoculations. These vaccines will be inactivated. ‘Live’ vaccines are normally withheld from pregnant women because they could cause unborn babies to become infected, although the risk is low.


So why vaccinate during pregnancy? Not only does vaccinating yourself provide you with a good chance of fighting off a disease if you catch it, it can also incur herd immunity, making it difficult for the most vulnerable members of society to catch a disease, such as, oh, I don’t know, pregnant women and newborn babies, perhaps.

To read more about vaccination, check out our article on the topic.

Babies are vulnerable because their immune systems are starting from scratch: they’re born with just a few antibodies inherited from their mothers before getting their first inoculations and meeting everyday bacteria. Pregnant women are immunosuppressed. This means their ability to fight off disease is lowered during pregnancy.

Flu virus via Wikipedia Commons.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

What can poo do for you?

This is a guest blog article written by Sarah Bailey.

Don't be put off by the title! Scientists often collect bodily fluids (or solids, in the case of poo) as they can provide very useful information about how the body works. In Life Study, a ground breaking new project aiming to follow 60,000 babies from birth into childhood, we use these waste products to answer questions about one of the most topical research questions around: how do microbes in our guts affect health throughout life?

What is Life Study?


The Life Study logo.Source and copyright: Life Study.

Life Study is a cohort study; it’s recruiting 60,000 babies (and their mothers and fathers) to follow them into childhood and try to find out how events that happen early in life might affect long-term health. The study is run by researchers at University College London and is divided into several parts. My own work focuses on infection and immunity, and I’m trying to discover how bugs such as bacteria and viruses influence the immune system in early life, and what the knock-on affects are as children grow up.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Toxoplasmosis (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #6)

I once heard someone talking about arranging a hen do and struggling for ideas that would be okay for pregnant participants. At the time, I couldn’t see why it was so difficult… they were pregnant, not dead! …But I guess it depends how risk averse you are. If you’re avoid absolutely everything that could pose any tiny risk that includes alcohol, caffeine, household chemicals, saunas, certain foods, sports, paint, gardening, cats, non-stick frying pans and any person who could have an illness. In fact, staying locked indoors without human contact.

The outdoors thing intrigued me.

The great outdoors © TWDK.

So what is the risk?

Cat and mouse © TWDK.
The panic is over toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite that will infect a third of people over their lifetimes. Most people never know: the zoonotic infection is asymptomatic in healthy adults, and humans are considered dead-end accidental hosts, because toxoplasma gondii can only reproduce in cats – and wants to get back in cats.