INTRODUCTION: Vaccines frequently induce suboptimal immune responses in the elderly, due to immunological ageing. Timely vaccination may be a strategy to overcome this problem, which classifies middle-aged adults asan interesting target group for future vaccine interventions. However, the immunological fitness of the middle-aged population is ill-defined. It is currently unknown whether effective T-cell help towards B-cells is initiated by conjugate-carrier vaccines at middle-age.
AIM: We characterized systemic Tetanus Toxoid (TT) specific T-helper cell responses in the circulation of middle-aged adults (50-65years of age, n=31) having received the MenACWY-TT vaccination.
METHODS: Blood samples were taken pre- as well as 7days, 28days, and 1year post-vaccination. TT-specific T-cell responses were determined by IFNγ Elispot and by the secretion of IFNγ, IL13, IL10, IL17, and IL21 in cell culture supernatants. Circulating CD4+CXCR5+ICOS+IL21+ cells were analyzed by flow cytometry, and meningococcal and TT-specific IgG responses by bead-based immunoassays. The correlation between the T-cell help and humoral responses was evaluated.
RESULTS: Vaccination with a TT-carrier protein induced a mixed TT-specific Th1 (IFNγ), Th2 (IL13, IL10), and Th17 (IL17) response in most participants. Additionally, circulating CD4+CXCR5+ICOS+IL21+ cells were significantly increased 7days post-vaccination. Pre-vaccination TT-specific cytokine production and post-vaccination Th2 responses correlated positively with the increase of CD4+CXCR5+ICOS+IL21+ cells. No correlation between T-cell help and antibody responses was found.
CONCLUSION: The characteristics of the T-cell response upon a TT-carrier vaccination suggests effective T-cell help towards B-cells in response to meningococcal polysaccharides, although the absence of a correlation with the antibody responses warrants further clarification. However, the robust T-helper cell response in middle-aged adults, decades after previous TT vaccinations, strengthens the classification of this age group for future vaccine interventions in the context of population ageing.