Serum Perfluoroalkyl Substances, Vaccine Responses, and Morbidity in a Cohort of Guinea-Bissau Children


Background: Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of widely used persistent chemicals with suspected immunotoxic effects.

Objectives: The present study aimed to examine the association between infant PFAS exposure and antibody responses to measles vaccination as well as morbidity in a low-income country.

Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, children from Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, were followed from inclusion (4-7 months of age) through 2 years of age. Half the children received two measles vaccinations (at inclusion and at 9 months of age), and the other half received only one (at 9 months of age). In a subset of 237 children, six PFAS were quantified in serum at inclusion, and measles antibody concentrations were assessed at inclusion and at approximately 9 months and 2 years of age. At inclusion and at the 9-month visit, mothers were interviewed about infant morbidity.

Results: All but one child had detectable serum concentrations of all six PFAS, although levels were lower than seen elsewhere. A doubling in perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) were associated with 21% (95% CI: 2, 37%) and 25% (95% CI: 1, 43%), respectively, lower measles antibody concentrations at the 9-month visit among the children who had received a measles vaccine at inclusion. Elevated serum PFAS concentrations were also associated with reduced prevaccination measles antibody concentrations and increased morbidity.

Discussion: The present study documents that PFAS exposure has reached West Africa and that infants show PFAS-associated increases in morbidity and decreases in measles-specific antibody concentrations before and after vaccination. These findings support the evidence on PFAS immunotoxicity at comparatively low serum concentrations.

Authors: Clara Amalie Gade Timmermann, Kristoffer Jarlov Jensen, Flemming Nielsen, Esben Budtz-Jørgensen, Fiona van der Klis, Christine Stabell Benn, Philippe Grandjean, Ane Bærent Fisker
; Full Source: Environmental health perspectives 2020 Aug;128(8):87002. doi: 10.1289/EHP6517.