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Evolutionary–developmental perspectives on immune system interactions among the pregnant woman, placenta, and fetus, and responses to sexually transmitted infectious agents

Authors


André Nahmias, 747 Houston Mill Rd #3, Atlanta, GA 30329. nahmias@bellsouth.net

Abstract

A balance has evolved over deep time between the various immune systems of the “triad” that is linked together for a short period: the pregnant woman, the fetus, and the placenta. This balance is affected by, and helps to determine, the immune responses to maternal infectious agents that may be transmitted to the fetus/infant transplacentally, intrapartum, or via breast milk. This review identifies newer evolutionary concepts and processes related particularly to the human placenta, innate and adaptive immune systems involved in tolerance, and in responses to sexually transmitted infectious (STI) agents that may be pathogenic to the fetus/infant at different gestational periods and in the first year of life. An evolutionary–developmental (EVO-DEVO) perspective has been applied to the complexities within, and among, the different actors and their beneficial or deleterious outcomes. Such a phylogenetic and ontogenic approach has helped to stimulate several basic questions and suggested possible explanations and novel practical interventions.

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