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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2013 Feb;20(2):239-47. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00580-12. Epub 2012 Dec 12.

Adults 65 years old and older have reduced numbers of functional memory T cells to respiratory syncytial virus fusion protein.

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Infectious Diseases/Vaccines Research, MedImmune, LLC, Mountain View, California, USA.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infects elderly (≥65 years) adults, causing medically attended illness and hospitalizations. While RSV neutralizing antibody levels correlate inversely with RSV-associated hospitalization in the elderly, the role of RSV-specific T cells in preventing disease in the elderly remains unclear. We examined RSV-specific humoral, mucosal, and cellular immune profiles in healthy elderly (65 to 85 years) and young (20 to 30 years) adults. RSV neutralization antibody titers in the elderly (10.5 ± 2.2 log(2)) and young (10.5 ± 2.1 log(2)) were similar. In contrast, levels of RSV F protein-specific gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-producing T cells were lower in elderly (180 ± 80 spot-forming cells [SFC]/10(6) peripheral blood mononuclear cells [PBMC]) than in young adults (1,250 ± 420 SFC/10(6) PBMC). Higher levels of interleukin-13 (IL-13; 3,000 ± 1,000 pg/ml) in cultured PBMC supernatants and lower frequency of RSV F-specific CD107a(+) CD8(+) T cells (3.0% ± 1.6% versus 5.0% ± 1.6%) were measured in PBMC from elderly than young adults. These results suggest that deficient RSV F-specific T cell responses contribute to susceptibility to severe RSV disease in elderly adults.

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