Influenza vaccine-mediated protection in older adults: Impact of influenza infection, cytomegalovirus serostatus and vaccine dosage

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Abstract

Age-related changes in T-cell function are associated with a loss of influenza vaccine efficacy in older adults. Both antibody and cell-mediated immunity plays a prominent role in protecting older adults, particularly against the serious complications of influenza. High dose (HD) influenza vaccines induce higher antibody titers in older adults compared to standard dose (SD) vaccines, yet its impact on T-cell memory is not clear.

The aim of this study was to compare the antibody and T-cell responses in older adults randomized to receive HD or SD influenza vaccine as well as determine whether cytomegalovirus (CMV) serostatus affects the response to vaccination, and identify differences in the response to vaccination in those older adults who subsequently have an influenza infection.

Older adults (≥ 65 years) were enrolled (n = 106) and randomized to receive SD or HD influenza vaccine. Blood was collected pre-vaccination, followed by 4, 10 and 20 weeks post-vaccination. Serum antibody titers, as well as levels of inducible granzyme B (iGrB) and cytokines were measured in PBMCs challenged ex vivo with live influenza virus. Surveillance conducted during the influenza season identified those with laboratory confirmed influenza illness or infection.

HD influenza vaccination induced a high antibody titer and IL-10 response, and a short-lived increase in Th1 responses (IFN-γ and iGrB) compared to SD vaccination in PBMCs challenged ex vivo with live influenza virus. Of the older adults who became infected with influenza, a high IL-10 and iGrB response in virus-challenged cells was observed post-infection (week 10 to 20), as well as IFN-γ and TNF-α at week 20. Additionally, CMV seropositive older adults had an impaired iGrB response to influenza virus-challenge, regardless of vaccine dose.

This study illustrates that HD influenza vaccines have little impact on the development of functional T-cell memory in older adults. Furthermore, poor outcomes of influenza infection in older adults may be due to a strong IL-10 response to influenza following vaccination, and persistent CMV infection.

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