The maternal antibody paradox: characterising mechanisms and devising solutions for rotavirus vaccination


  • Dr Sarah Caddy

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

Antibodies are produced by our immune system to protect against infections. Babies are unable to make antibodies when they are born and the mother’s antibodies are transferred to them through the placenta and breast milk. These maternal antibodies provide protection while the child's immune system develops. A downside is that maternal antibodies can block vaccines. This is especially concerning for the rotavirus vaccine as it can cause life-threatening diarrhoea in children. Babies with a high level of maternal antibodies are often not protected against rotavirus disease after vaccination. Despite this problem being identified more than 20 years ago, it is not known how this occurs. I will work out how maternal antibodies block rotavirus vaccines. 

My findings will be used to design more effective vaccines with the potential to save the lives of infants who would otherwise succumb to rotavirus disease.