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Int J Parasitol. 2003 May;33(5-6):655-61.

The effectiveness and limitations of immune memory: understanding protective immune responses.

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Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Immune memory is the foundation of the practise of vaccination. Research on the molecular and cellular events leading to generation and development of memory T and B lymphocytes explain why there are heightened secondary immune responses after an initial encounter with antigen. In this review, we discuss how clonal expansion, targeted tissue localisation, more efficient antigen recognition and more proficient effector functions contribute to the improved effectiveness of memory cells. Despite the enhanced efficacy of memory cells and the recall immune response, there are numerous experimental and empirical examples in which protection provided by vaccines are short-lived, particularly against pathogens that replicate and cause pathology at their site of entry. In the absence of active immune effector activities, the ability of memory cells to respond quickly enough to control this type of infection is limited. The protective efficacy of bovine herpes virus-1 vaccines in experimental and field challenge conditions are used to illustrate the concept that full protection from disease conferred by vaccination requires the presence of active immune effector mechanisms. Thus, regardless of the many successful technological advances in vaccine design and better understanding of mechanisms underlining induction of memory responses by vaccination, we should recognise that vaccine immunoprophylaxis has limitations. Expectations for vaccines should be realistic and linked to the understanding of host immune responses and knowledge regarding the pathogen and disease pathogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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