Member Spotlight: Dr. Manish Sadarangani

The project, co-led by Dr. Bahaa Abu Raya and Dr. Scott Halperin, seeks to learn more about the implications of giving pregnant women the pertussis (also known as whooping cough) vaccine to protect newborns.

Dr. Sadarangani explains that although young infants begin receiving their own vaccines when they reach two months of age, they are actually most vulnerable in their first few weeks of life. As a result, in February 2018 the Public Health Agency of Canada recommended that all pregnant women should receive the vaccine during every pregnancy – but Dr. Sadarangani says there is “still a lot we don’t fully understand.”

When pregnant women are vaccinated against pertussis, antibodies they produce cross the placenta and help protect the baby. However, some of these babies don’t seem to respond as well to their own pertussis vaccines as babies whose mothers did not receive a vaccine. This discrepancy raises questions about whether babies whose mothers received a vaccine might end up more vulnerable to disease later in life.

Using samples already collected from a clinical trial across Canada, Dr. Sadarangani and his team will examine the antibodies produced and transferred by pregnant women to find out what might be impacting the babies’ response to vaccines. In addition to this project, he is currently collaborating with researchers in Uganda who are looking at the effects of the pertussis vaccine in pregnant women living with HIV. His hope is that all of this work can help provide a better understanding of how the vaccine should be used.

“I’m someone who believes strongly in prevention rather than cures — that’s why I ended up drawn to vaccine research,” Dr. Sadarangani says. “Vaccines are amazing because the research we do here can have potential implications across the globe.”

Learn more about the other projects funded by the 2019 Women’s Health Catalyst Grant.