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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2015 May;22(5):561-9. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00695-14. Epub 2015 Mar 18.

Identification of pertussis-specific effector memory T cells in preschool children.

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Center for Infectious Diseases Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
Center for Infectious Diseases Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.
Department of Pediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Anti-Infectious Immunity Unit, Department of Infectious, Parasitic and Immune-Mediated Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.
Laboratory for Vaccinology and Mucosal Immunity, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.


Whooping cough remains a problem despite vaccination, and worldwide resurgence of pertussis is evident. Since cellular immunity plays a role in long-term protection against pertussis, we studied pertussis-specific T-cell responses. Around the time of the preschool acellular pertussis (aP) booster dose at 4 years of age, T-cell memory responses were compared in children who were primed during infancy with either a whole-cell pertussis (wP) or an aP vaccine. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated and stimulated with pertussis vaccine antigens for 5 days. T cells were characterized by flow-based analysis of carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester (CFSE) dilution and CD4, CD3, CD45RA, CCR7, gamma interferon (IFN-γ), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) expression. Before the aP preschool booster vaccination, both the proliferated pertussis toxin (PT)-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cell fractions (CFSE(dim)) were higher in aP- than in wP-primed children. Post-booster vaccination, more pertussis-specific CD4(+) effector memory cells (CD45RA(-) CCR7(-)) were induced in aP-primed children than in those primed with wP. The booster vaccination did not appear to significantly affect the T-cell memory subsets and functionality in aP-primed or wP-primed children. Although the percentages of Th1 cytokine-producing cells were alike in aP- and wP-primed children pre-booster vaccination, aP-primed children produced more Th1 cytokines due to higher numbers of proliferated pertussis-specific effector memory cells. At present, infant vaccinations with four aP vaccines in the first year of life result in pertussis-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) effector memory T-cell responses that persist in children until 4 years of age and are higher than those in wP-primed children. The booster at 4 years of age is therefore questionable; this may be postponed to 6 years of age.

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