BACKGROUND: Developmental changes in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis during infancy have been reported in term infants, but those in preterm infants have yet to be elucidated. If developmental changes in the HPA axis of preterm infants are modulated by any factors, it may affect their future health. Few studies have examined the lasting consequences of antenatal glucocorticoids on the development of the HPA axis.
METHODS: We measured pre- and post-palivizumab vaccination salivary cortisol values in two conforming periods of three-months intervals during infancy, and compared cortisol values and the response of cortisol secretion between groups with and without antenatal glucocorticoid (AG) therapy.
RESULTS: Although the strength of the response of cortisol secretion to palivizumab fell age-dependently (until late infancy) in the Non-AG group, the opposite pattern was exhibited in the AG group. The changes of the delta cortisol values between the 2 groups were significant.
CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that the HPA axis of preterm infants whose mothers receive AG therapy may be upregulated during infancy, possibly leading to long lasting health problems.