The resurgence of pertussis has resulted in an increased morbidity and mortality, especially among young infants. The aim of our study was to determine the antibody concentrations against pertussis antigens in cord and maternal blood in both preterm and term infant-mother pairs and to evaluate the efficacy of transplacental antibody transfer.
Antibodies to pertussis toxin (PT) and filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA) in maternal and cord blood samples were measured by in-house enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in 100 preterm infant-mother and 100 term infant-mother pairs. Geometric mean concentrations (GMCs) of pertussis antibodies and cord:maternal GMC ratios were calculated.
Cord GMCs for anti-PT and anti-FHA in the preterm group were 13.15 and 14.55 ELISA U/ml (EU/ml), respectively. Cord GMCs for anti-PT and anti-FHA in the term group were 19.46 and 19.18 EU/ml, respectively. Cord anti-PT GMC was significanlty lower in the preterm group (p=0.037). There were no differences between the groups with regard to maternal anti-PT and anti-FHA GMC. Placental transfer ratios for anti-PT and anti-FHA in preterms were 68% and 72%, respectively. The same ratios in terms were 107% and 120%, respectively and were significantly higher than those of preterms (p<0.001). Placental transfer ratios were even lower in preterms <32 weeks when compared to preterms ≥32 weeks and terms. There was a strong correlation between maternal and cord anti-pertussis antibody levels both in preterm and term infants.
Anti-pertussis antibody levels were generally low in infant-mother pairs and would not be adequate to confer protection until the onset of primary immunization series. Transplacental anti-pertussis antibody transfers and antibody levels were lower in the cord blood of preterm infants, especially in those <32 weeks. These findings support the rationale for maternal immunization, which in combination with cocooning, could be a better option for preterm infants.