Pre-conception maternal helminth infection transfers via nursing long-lasting cellular immunity against helminths to offspring

Sci Adv. 2019 May 29;5(5):eaav3058. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3058. eCollection 2019 May.


Maternal immune transfer is the most significant source of protection from early-life infection, but whether maternal transfer of immunity by nursing permanently alters offspring immunity is poorly understood. Here, we identify maternal immune imprinting of offspring nursed by mothers who had a pre-conception helminth infection. Nursing of pups by helminth-exposed mothers transferred protective cellular immunity to these offspring against helminth infection. Enhanced control of infection was not dependent on maternal antibody. Protection associated with systemic development of protective type 2 immunity in T helper 2 (TH2) impaired IL-4Rα-/- offspring. This maternally acquired immunity was maintained into maturity and required transfer (via nursing) to the offspring of maternally derived TH2-competent CD4 T cells. Our data therefore reveal that maternal exposure to a globally prevalent source of infection before pregnancy provides long-term nursing-acquired immune benefits to offspring mediated by maternally derived pathogen-experienced lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Suckling / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Helminth / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / parasitology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Female
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired*
  • Lactation / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nippostrongylus / immunology
  • Nippostrongylus / pathogenicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Strongylida Infections / immunology*
  • Strongylida Infections / transmission
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • Antibodies, Helminth
  • Il4ra protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Cell Surface