At birth, the pouch young of the Marsupialia are antigenically inexperienced and immune incompetent. There is, by necessity, a rapid development of immune competence. In many species this is mediated by a rapidly developing thymus in a cervical location. Some species may have maternal transference via the placenta but mostly, maternal antibody transference commences at the time of initial suckling and continues until the young leave the pouch, by which time immune competence is at the adult stage of development.

Adult marsupials have, with some variation, lymphoid organs and responses, both humoral and cellular, comparable to those of eutherian species. Observations have suggested that there may be initial retardation in the humoral response and that aspects of the cellular response may be refractory to some cytokines.

See also: Cell-mediated immunity; Humoral immunity; Maternal antibodies; Maturation of immune responses; Mycobacteria, infection and immunity; Thymus.

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