Birth season has been reported to be a risk factor for several immune-mediated diseases. We hypothesized that this association is mediated by differential changes in neonatal immune phenotype and function with birth season.
We sought to investigate the influence of season of birth on cord blood immune cell subsets and inflammatory mediators in neonatal airways.
Cord blood was phenotyped for 26 different immune cell subsets, and at 1 month of age, 20 cytokines and chemokines were quantified in airway mucosal lining fluid. Multivariate partial least squares discriminant analyses were applied to determine whether certain immune profiles dominate by birth season, and correlations between individual cord blood immune cells and early airway immune mediators were defined.
We found a birth season-related fluctuation in neonatal immune cell subsets and in early-life airway mucosal immune function. The seasonal airway immune pattern was associated with the number of activated and regulatory T cells in cord blood whereas it was independent of concomitant presence of pathogenic airway microbes. Specifically, summer newborns presented with the lowest levels of all cell types and mediators; fall newborns displayed high levels of activated T cells and mucosal IL-12p70, TNF-α, IL-13, IL-10, and IL-2; and winter newborns had the highest levels of innate immune cells, IL-5, type 17-related immune mediators, and activated T cells.
Birth season fluctuations seem to affect neonatal immune development and result in differential potentiation of cord blood immune cells and early airway mucosal immune function.