Immunological footprint: the development of a child's immune system in environments rich in microorganisms and parasites

Parasitology. 2011 Oct;138(12):1508-18. doi: 10.1017/S0031182011000588. Epub 2011 Jul 18.


The shaping of a child's immune system starts in utero, with possible long-term consequences in later life. This review highlights the studies conducted on the development of the immune system in early childhood up to school-age, discussing the impact that environmental factors may have. Emphasis has been put on studies conducted in geographical regions where exposure to micro-organisms and parasites are particularly high, and the effect that maternal exposures to these may have on an infant's immune responses to third-party antigens. In this respect we discuss the effect on responses to vaccines, co-infections and on the development of allergic disorders. In addition, studies of the impact that such environmental factors may have on slightly older (school) children are highlighted emphasizing the need for large studies in low to middle income countries, that are sufficiently powered and have longitudinal follow-up components to understand the immunological footprint of a child and the consequences throughout life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coinfection / immunology
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Helminthiasis / immunology*
  • Helminthiasis / parasitology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / growth & development*
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / immunology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / parasitology
  • Skin Tests
  • Vaccines / immunology


  • Allergens
  • Vaccines