Low birth-weight babies are born with low nutrient reserves, an immature immune system, and small sized lymphoid organs. Studies have also linked low birth weight to reductions in T-cell counts, altered proportions of lymphocyte subsets, and reduced in vitro lymphocyte proliferation in infants and children. Additionally, mucosal surfaces (of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract) are underdeveloped, thereby weakening the first layer of defense against an invading pathogen. Low birth-weight infants have increased neonatal mortality, mainly from diarrhea, pneumonia, and measles, and there is evidence that they remain at an increased risk of infection past the first year of life.
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