Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 229–243 | Cite as

Arsenic and Immune Response to Infection During Pregnancy and Early Life

  • Sarah E. Attreed
  • Ana Navas-Acien
  • Christopher D. HeaneyEmail author
Mechanisms of Toxicity (JR Richardson, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Mechanisms of Toxicity


Purpose of Review

Arsenic, a known carcinogen and developmental toxicant, is a major threat to global health. While the contribution of arsenic exposure to chronic diseases and adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes is recognized, its ability to impair critical functions of humoral and cell-mediated immunity—including the specific mechanisms in humans—is not well understood. Arsenic has been shown to increase risk of infectious diseases that have significant health implications during pregnancy and early life. Here, we review the latest research on the mechanisms of arsenic-related immune response alterations that could underlie arsenic-associated increased risk of infection during the vulnerable periods of pregnancy and early life.

Recent Findings

The latest evidence points to alteration of antibody production and transplacental transfer as well as failure of T helper cells to produce IL-2 and proliferate.


Critical areas for future research include the effects of arsenic exposure during pregnancy and early life on immune responses to natural infection and the immunogenicity and efficacy of vaccines.


Arsenic exposure Immune response Infection Immunotoxicity Pregnant women Newborns Children 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Funding Sources

The authors would like to acknowledge their funding sources: NIH grants 1R01ES026973-01A1, R01ES021367, and R01ES025216.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah E. Attreed
    • 1
  • Ana Navas-Acien
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Christopher D. Heaney
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health and EngineeringJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of EpidemiologyJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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