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Disparities along lines of socioeconomic disadvantage are observed across the life course. One critical driver of disparities in late-life morbidity and mortality is senescence of the immune system, or immunosenescence, which is known to be associated with chronic inflammation.

However, emerging evidence also points to immune dysfunction resulting from continual assault on the immune system by multiple persistent infections. Together, these infections and resulting immune dysfunction set in motion a cascade of events leading to accelerated immunosenescence. Accelerated immunosenescence may then be a driver of health disparities later in life. New research suggests disparities in immune dysfunction across the life course can be linked to social disadvantage extending back to childhood. A critical knowledge gap is how early we observe the relationship between childhood disadvantage and accelerated immunoscenence. It may be that experiences of disadvantage in childhood result in higher pathogen loads for adolescents, which in turn may put them on a trajectory of accelerated immunoscenence.

Grace Noppert—Duke University

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