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Background: Maternal immunisation to boost respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) antibodies in pregnant women, is a strategy being considered to enhance infant protection from severe RSV associated disease. However, little is known about the efficiency of transplacental transfer of RSV-specific antibodies in a setting with a high burden of malaria and HIV, to guide the implementation of such a vaccination program. Methods: Using a plaque reduction neutralization assay, we screened 400 pairs of cord and maternal serum specimens from pregnant women for RSV-specific antibodies. Participants were pregnant women of two surveillance cohorts: 200 participants from a hospital cohort in Kilifi, Coastal Kenya and 200 participants from a surveillance cohort in Siaya, Western Kenya. Transplacental transfer efficiency was determined by the cord to maternal transfer ratio (CMTR). Logistic regression was used to determine independent predictors of impaired transplacental transfer of RSV-specific antibodies. Results: A total of 800 samples were screened from the 400 participants. At enrollment the median age was 25 years (Interquartile range (IQR): 21-31). Overall, transplacental transfer was efficient and did not differ between Kilifi and Siaya cohort (1.02 vs. 1.02; p=0.946) but was significantly reduced among HIV-infected mothers compared to HIV-uninfected mothers (mean CMTR: 0.98 vs 1.03; p=0.015). Prematurity <33 weeks gestation (Odds ratio [OR]: 0.23, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.06–0.85; p=0.028), low birth weight <2.5 kgs (OR: 0.25, 95% CI: 0.07–0.94; p=0.041) and HIV infection (OR: 0.47, 95% CI:0.23-0.98; p=0.045) reduced efficiency of transplacental transfer among these women. Conclusions: Transplacental transfer of RSV-specific antibodies among pregnant women in Kenya is efficient. A consideration to integrate other preventive interventions with maternal RSV vaccination targeting infants born premature (<33 weeks gestation), with low birth weight <2.5 kgs, or HIV-infected mothers is likely to improve vaccine outcomes in this setting.

Original publication





Wellcome Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





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