August 28, 2017
3 min read

Nine genes may predict immune response to influenza vaccine

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Researchers studied more than 32,000 genes and identified nine that that may help predict successful human immune response to influenza vaccinations.

In the United States, annual influenza vaccination is recommended for patients aged 6 months and older, and remains the best protection against seasonal influenza, according to the CDC. However, the seasonal vaccine is often not very effective at preventing illness.

According to the new gene study, conducted by researchers from the Human Immunology Project Consortium (HIPC) and the Center for Human Immunology (CHI), the seasonal vaccine is estimated to be between 51% and 67% effective in adults aged younger than 65 years. Overall single-season estimates often turn up numbers lower than this. An early estimate from this past season found that the influenza vaccine was 48% effective, and it has been calculated to be as low as 10% effective in the past 13 years.

“This efficacy is further reduced in older adults, who are 20% less likely to seroconvert than young adults and often fail to generate neutralizing antibodies that are critical to protection,” researchers wrote in the new study in Science Immunology.

They analyzed data on more than 500 patients from six influenza vaccination cohorts from distinct geographical locations and vaccination seasons. According to the study, nine genes — RAB24, GRB2, DPP3, ACTB, MVP, DPP7, ARPC4, PLEKHB2, ARRB1 — and three gene modules were significantly associated with the magnitude of antibody response.

“These signatures were specific to young individuals, suggesting that distinct mechanisms underlie the lower vaccine response in older individuals,” they wrote. “We found an inverse correlation between the effect size of signatures in young and older individuals.”

For example, the analysis showed that the presence of an inflammatory gene signature was associated with better antibody responses in young individuals but worse responses in older individuals.
results point to the prospect of predicting antibody responses before vaccination and provide insights into the biological mechanisms underlying successful vaccination responses,” the researchers said. – by Gerard Gallagher

Disclosure: One author reports receiving funding from Merck Research Laboratories to study waning immunity to mumps vaccine and holding a patent related to vaccinia virus peptide research. All other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.