Impaired Antibody Response to Influenza Vaccine in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Aging Women Is Associated with Immune Activation and Inflammation
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Impaired Antibody Response to Influenza Vaccine in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Aging Women Is Associated with Immune Activation and Inflammation

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  • Alternative Title:
    PLoS One
  • Description:

    Aging and HIV infection are independently associated with excessive immune activation and impaired immune responses to vaccines, but their relationships have not been examined.


    For selecting an aging population we enrolled 28 post-menopausal women including 12 healthy volunteers and 16 HIV-infected women on antiretroviral treatment with <100 HIV RNA copies/ml. Antibody titers to trivalent influenza vaccination given during the 2011-2012 season were determined before and 4 weeks after vaccination.


    Seroprotective influenza antibody titers (≥1:40) were observed in 31% HIV+ and 58% HIV-uninfected women pre-vaccination. Following vaccination, magnitude of antibody responses and frequency of seroprotection were lower in HIV+ (75%) than in HIV– (91%) women. Plasma IL-21, the signature cytokine of T follicular helper cells (Tfh), and CD4 T cell IL-21R were upregulated with seroconversion (≥4 fold increase in antibody titer). Post-vaccine antibody responses were inversely correlated with pre-vaccination plasma TNFα levels and with activated CD4 T cells, including activated peripheral (p)Tfh. Plasma TNFα levels were correlated with activated pTfh cells (r=0.48, p=0.02), and inversely with the post-vaccination levels of plasma IL-21 (r=-0.53, p=0.02). In vitro TNFα blockade improved the ability of CD4 T cells to produce IL-21 and of B cells to secrete immunoglobulins, and addition of exogenous IL-21 to cell cultures enhanced B cell function. Higher frequencies of activated and exhausted CD8 T and B cells were noted in HIV+ women, but these markers did not show a correlation with antibody responses.


    In aging HIV-infected and uninfected women, activated CD4 and pTfh cells may compromise influenza vaccine-induced antibody response, for which a mechanism of TNFα-mediated impairment of pTfh-induced IL-21 secretion is postulated. Interventions aimed at reducing chronic inflammation and immune activation in aging, HIV-infected patients may improve their response to vaccines.

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