Scientists detect why influenza vaccines are less effective for seniors
Each year, approximately one-fifth of Americans contract influenza. The virus kills countless people each year, most of whom are elderly people with weakened immune systems. The study found new molecular signatures that researchers can implement to better protect people.
"We provide novel evidence of a potential connection between the baseline state of the immune system in the elderly and reduced responsiveness to vaccination," co-senior study authors Shankar Subramaniam of UCSD and Bali Pulendran, from Emory, said. "By providing a more complete picture of how the immune system responds to vaccination, our findings may help guide the development of next-generation vaccines that offer long-lasting immunity and better protection of at-risk populations."
The analysts looked at blood samples to detect molecular pathways that are connected with strong immune responses from vaccinations. Their method proved to be 80 percent accurate in predicting whether the vaccine would help protect people from the virus.
"This is obviously a complex problem, and the study reveals responses that are averaged across populations," Subramaniam said. "As is true in every medical diagnosis, prognosis and treatment, there is a distribution of responses with a majority conforming to the mean predicted response. So the important thing for the general audience to recognize is that there will be exceptions and variations."