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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2012 Nov;19(11):1879-86. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00277-12. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

T-cell responses before and after the fifth consecutive acellular pertussis vaccination in 4-year-old Dutch children.

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Laboratory for Infectious Disease and Perinatal Screening, Center for Infectious Diseases Control, National Institute for Public Health, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


Immunization with acellular pertussis vaccine (aP) induces higher specific antibody levels and fewer adverse reactions than does immunization with the whole-cell vaccine (wP). However, antibody levels in infants induced by both types of pertussis vaccines wane already after 1 year. Therefore, long-term T-cell responses upon vaccination might play a role in protection against pertussis. In a cross-sectional study (ISRCTN65428640), we investigated T-helper (Th) cell immune responses in wP- or aP-vaccinated children before and after an aP low-dose or high-dose preschool booster at 4 years of age in The Netherlands. T cells were stimulated with pertussis vaccine antigens. The numbers of gamma interferon-producing cells and Th1, Th2, Th17, and interleukin-10 (IL-10) cytokine concentrations were determined. In addition, pertussis-specific IgE levels were measured in plasma. Children being vaccinated with aP vaccinations at 2, 3, 4, and 11 months of age still showed higher pertussis-specific T-cell responses at 4 years of age than did wP-vaccinated children. These T-cell responses failed to show a typical increase in cytokine production after a fifth aP vaccination but remained high after a low-dose booster and seemed to decline even after a high-dose booster. Importantly, elevated IgE levels were induced after this booster vaccination. In contrast, wP-vaccinated children had only low prebooster T-cell responses, and these children showed a clear postbooster T-cell memory response even after a low-dose booster vaccine. Four high-dose aP vaccinations in infancy induce high T-cell responses still present even 3 years after vaccination and enhanced IgE responses after preschool booster vaccination. Therefore, studies of changes in vaccine dosage, timing of pertussis (booster) vaccinations, and the possible association with local side effects are necessary.

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