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Rev Med Virol. 2012 Jul;22(4):267-79. doi: 10.1002/rmv.1713. Epub 2012 Mar 22.

Contribution of antibody production against neuraminidase to the protection afforded by influenza vaccines.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Division Virology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


Vaccines are instrumental in controlling the burden of influenza virus infection in humans and animals. Antibodies raised against both major viral surface glycoproteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), can contribute to protective immunity. Vaccine-induced HA antibodies have been characterized extensively, and they generally confer protection by blocking the attachment and fusion of a homologous virus onto host cells. Although not as well characterized, some functions of NA antibodies in influenza vaccine-mediated immunity have been recognized for many years. In this review, we summarize the case for NA antibodies in influenza vaccine-mediated immunity. In the absence of well-matched HA antibodies, NA antibodies can provide varying degrees of protection against disease. NA proteins of seasonal influenza vaccines have been shown in some instances to elicit serum antibodies with cross-reactivity to avian-origin and swine-origin influenza strains, in addition to HA drift variants. NA-mediated immunity has been linked to (i) conserved NA epitopes amongst otherwise antigenically distinct strains, partly attributable to the segmented influenza viral genome; (ii) inhibition of NA enzymatic activity; and (iii) the NA content in vaccine formulations. There is a potential to enhance the effectiveness of existing and future influenza vaccines by focusing greater attention on the antigenic characteristics and potency of the NA protein.

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