Repository logo

Transplacental transfer efficiency of maternal antibodies against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus and dynamics of naturally acquired antibodies in Chinese children: a longitudinal, paired mother-neonate cohort study.

Published version

Repository DOI



Change log


Li, Mei 
Wang, Wei 
Chen, Junbo 
Zhan, Zhifei 
Xu, Meng 


BACKGROUND: The 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza A virus (A(H1N1)pdm09 virus) evolves rapidly and has continued to cause severe infections in children since its emergence in 2009. We aimed to characterise the kinetics of maternally and naturally acquired antibodies against historical A(H1N1)pdm09 strains and to assess the extent to which the response to heterologous strains following infection or vaccination affects observed A(H1N1)pdm09 strain-specific antibody titres in a Chinese paediatric population. METHODS: In this retrospective study, we used residual serum samples from 528 mother-neonate pairs from a non-interventional, longitudinal cohort study in southern China conducted from Sept 20, 2013, to Aug 24, 2018, from six local hospitals in Anhua County, Hunan Province, China. Mother-neonate pairs were eligible for inclusion if the neonates were born after Sept 20, 2013, and their mothers had resided in the study sites for at least 3 months. We tested samples with a haemagglutination inhibition (HAI) assay to measure antibody levels against three historical A(H1N1)pdm09 strains that were antigenically similar to the strains that circulated during the 2009 pandemic (A/Hunan-Kaifu/SWL4204/2009 [SWL4204/09 strain], A/Hunan-Daxiang/SWL1277/2016 [SWL1277/16 strain], and A/Hunan-Yanfeng/SWL185/2018 [SWL185/18 strain]). We also determined the seroprevalence, geometric mean titres (GMTs), transfer ratio of maternal antibodies, and the dynamics of maternally and naturally acquired antibodies in children, from birth to 3 years of age. FINDINGS: 1066 mother-neonate pairs were enrolled in the original cohort between Sept 20, 2013, and Oct 14, 2015. Of these, 528 pairs (523 mothers, 528 neonates) were selected for the present study. The median age of the mothers was 25 years (IQR 23 to 29). 291 (55%) of 528 children were boys and 237 (45%) were girls, and most children (452 [86%]) were breastfed before the age of 6 months. The GMTs and the seroprevalence for the SWL4204/09 strain were higher than those for the SWL1277/16 and SWL185/18 strains among mothers (GMTs: 10·4 [95% CI 9·8 to 11·1] vs 9·3 [8·7 to 9·8] vs 8·0 [7·5 to 8·4], p<0·0001; seroprevalence: 11·1% [95% CI 8·5 to 14·1] vs 6·9% [4·9 to 9·4] vs 4·6% [3·0 to 6·8], p=0·0003) and among neonates (GMTs: 10·7 [10·0 to 11·5] vs 9·4 [8·8 to 10·0] vs 8·1 [7·6 to 8·6], p<0·0001; seroprevalence: 13·4% [10·7 to 16·7] vs 8·7% [6·5 to 11·5] vs 6·1% [4·2 to 8·5], p=0·0002). Regardless of the A(H1N1)pdm09-specific strain, maternal antibodies could be transferred efficiently via the placenta (mean transfer ratios: 1·10 for SWL4204/09 vs 1·09 for SWL1277/16 vs 1·06 for SWL185/18; p=0·93). The A(H1N1)pdm09 strain-specific antibodies waned below the protective threshold of 1:40 within 2 months after birth. After maternal antibody waning, there were periodic increases and decreases in HAI antibody titres against three A(H1N1)pdm09 strains, and such increases were all significantly associated with a higher immune response to heterologous strains. Vaccination against the SWL4204/09 strain was associated with a poor response to the SWL185/18 strain (β-0·20, 95% CI -0·28 to -0·13; p<0·0001). INTERPRETATION: Our findings suggest low pre-existing immunity against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus among unvaccinated Chinese adult female and paediatric populations. This evidence, together with the rapid decay of maternal antibodies and the observed cross-reactivity among different A(H1N1)pdm09 strains, highlights the importance of accelerating maternal and paediatric influenza vaccination in China. FUNDING: The Key Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. TRANSLATION: For the Chinese translation of the abstract see Supplementary Materials section.



Adult, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Male, Pregnancy, Young Adult, Antibodies, Viral, Cohort Studies, East Asian People, Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype, Influenza, Human, Longitudinal Studies, Mothers, Retrospective Studies, Seroepidemiologic Studies

Journal Title

Lancet Microbe

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Elsevier BV