Polymorphonuclear leucocytes were isolated from cord-blood samples collected from healthy, term infants. Oxidative metabolism was assessed in these cells by hexose monophosphate shunt activity and chemiluminescence. Basal levels of oxidative metabolism were spontaneously increased in resting (nonphagocytic) cord-blood cells as compared to adult controls. As a response to phagocytosis, cord-blood cells initiated the expected increase in oxidative metabolism and reached normal peak values of activity. However, these cells were unable to maintain the high metabolic rate for as long a time as adult controls. This aberration of leucocyte function may indicate a deficiency of metabolic reserve and could be related to the increased susceptibility of newborns to bacterial infections.
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