Vaccination against infectious diseases ideally should provide lifelong immunity, but in many cases waning of antibody titers has been observed over time. In this study we describe the identification of antigen-specific memory B-cells in peripheral blood of persons born between 1940 and 2004 in The Netherlands. Polyclonal stimulation of either PBMCs or purified B-cells induced proliferation and differentiation of B-cells of the memory phenotype (CD19(+)/CD27(+)) into antibody secreting cells (ASC). Memory B-cells against components of bacterial vaccines (Bordetella pertussis and tetanus) as well as viral vaccines (measles and influenza) were thus identified, even in persons with low serum antibody titers. Enrichment of B-cells increased the sensitivity of memory B-cell detection when compared to PBMCs. Low, but significant correlations between numbers of antigen-specific memory B-cells and the corresponding circulating antibody titers were found for the pertussis proteins and measles virus, but not for tetanus. The identification of the numbers and specificities of peripheral memory B-cells and their relationship with circulating antibodies may be very useful to determine the long-term efficacy of vaccination.
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