Arsenic and Immune Response to Infection During Pregnancy and Early Life

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2017 Jun;4(2):229-243. doi: 10.1007/s40572-017-0141-4.


Purpose of review: Arsenic, a known carcinogen and developmental toxicant, is a major threat to global health. While the contribution of arsenic exposure to chronic diseases and adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes is recognized, its ability to impair critical functions of humoral and cell-mediated immunity-including the specific mechanisms in humans-is not well understood. Arsenic has been shown to increase risk of infectious diseases that have significant health implications during pregnancy and early life. Here, we review the latest research on the mechanisms of arsenic-related immune response alterations that could underlie arsenic-associated increased risk of infection during the vulnerable periods of pregnancy and early life.

Recent findings: The latest evidence points to alteration of antibody production and transplacental transfer as well as failure of T helper cells to produce IL-2 and proliferate. Critical areas for future research include the effects of arsenic exposure during pregnancy and early life on immune responses to natural infection and the immunogenicity and efficacy of vaccines.

Keywords: Arsenic exposure; Children; Immune response; Immunotoxicity; Infection; Newborns; Pregnant women.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arsenic / immunology
  • Arsenic / toxicity*
  • Arsenic Poisoning* / immunology
  • Environmental Pollutants / immunology
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immunotoxins
  • Infections*
  • Mice
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Immunotoxins
  • Arsenic