Introduction: Successful vaccination of elderly persons is often hampered by immunological ageing, leaving part of the elderly population vulnerable for infectious diseases. As an alternative, timely vaccinations might be administered at middle-age, before reaching old age. Studies evaluating the immunological fitness of middle-aged adults are warranted. In this study we compared the immunogenicity of a primary meningococcal vaccination in Dutch middle-aged adults with that in adolescents, in order to gain knowledge on the early signs of immune ageing.
Methods: In this study, we compared the antibody responses after a primary meningococcal vaccination between middle-aged adults (50-65 years of age, N = 204) and adolescents (10-15 years of age, N = 225). Blood samples were taken pre-, as well as 28 days and 1 year post-vaccination. Functional antibody titers were measured with the serum bactericidal killing assay using baby rabbit complement (rSBA). Meningococcal polysaccharide (PS) specific IgG and IgM concentrations were determined with a fluorescent bead-based multiplex immunoassay.
Results: Lower post-vaccination functional antibody titers against meningococcal group W and Y were observed in the middle-aged adults compared to the adolescents. One year post-vaccination, also a significantly higher proportion of the middle-aged adults possessed an rSBA titer below protection level. A large reduction in postvaccination IgM concentrations was observed in the middle-aged adults, whereas IgG concentrations were only marginally different between the two age groups. Strong correlations between the post-vaccination rSBA titers and IgM concentrations were found both in the middle-aged adults and the adolescents.
Conclusion: Although protective antibody titers were initiated after primary meningococcal vaccination in middle-aged adults, antibody functionality was significantly lower as compared to that in adolescents. This difference was mainly caused by lower IgM responses. Our results indicate early signs of immune ageing in middle-aged adults, which is important knowledge for the development of future vaccine strategies to better protect elderly persons against infectious diseases.