Neonatal cord blood subsets and cytokine response to bacterial antigens
We compared lymphocyte subsets and cytokine responses to bacteria among term, preterm infants, and adults. Lymphocyte subset percentages in cord blood (22 preterm, 27 term neonates) and peripheral blood from 21 adults and cytokine/chemokine interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, interferon gamma (IFN gamma) responses to Escherichia coli, group B Streptococcus (GBS), Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Lactobacillus plantarum (Lp299v) were assessed by flow cytometry. Preterm compared with term infants had increased CD8 (+) T cells (p = 0.02) and reduced naïve CD4 (+) T cells (p < 0.0001). Memory T and natural killer (NK) T cells were reduced (p < 0.001) in neonates; NK and CD56 (+)161 (+) NK cells were increased (p < 0.001). CD56 (+)CD8 (+) NK cells were higher in preterm compared with term infants. Despite individual exceptions, cytokine responses in neonates were weaker than adults except for IL-8 response to E. coli in preterm and IL-12 response to Lp299v in term infants. IL-10 responses were weaker in preterm (p = 0.01) and term (p = 0.005) infants to S. epidermidis and to E. coli (p = 0.03 for both) compared with adults. Differences in regulatory subpopulations of NK and T cells between neonates and adults and term compared with preterm infants were observed. These differences rather than intrinsic functional deficiency may account for neonatal cytokine responses to bacteria.