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Rigshospitalet - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital
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Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination, thymic size and thymic output in healthy newborns

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BACKGROUND: The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) has been associated with beneficial nonspecific effects on infant health. We aimed to examine the effect of BCG at birth on thymic size and the associations between thymic output, circulating lymphocytes, risk of infection, and thymic size.

METHODS: In infants randomized to BCG or no BCG, thymic index (TI), and thymic/weight index (TWI) were measured by ultrasound at birth and at the age of 3 months. T cell subpopulations including CD4(+) T cells, CD8(+) T cells, and recent thymic emigrants (RTEs) were assessed by flow cytometry. Infections up to age 3 months were parent-reported.

RESULTS: BCG vaccination did not affect thymic size at age 3 months, measured as TI. At birth, the number of lymphocytes, CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, and RTEs were positively associated with TI and TWI. Furthermore, a reduced risk of infections up to age 3 months was associated with a large thymic size at birth.

CONCLUSION: We found no effect of BCG vaccination on thymic size. The positive association between thymic output, lymphocytes, reduced risk of infections, and TI/TWI suggests that assessment of TI/TWI by ultrasound may be a predictor of the immunological capacity in the newborn.Pediatric Research (2017); doi:10.1038/pr.2017.27.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPediatric Research
Volume81
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)873-880
ISSN0031-3998
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

ID: 49798115