PloS one

Different arms of the adaptive immune system induced by a combination vaccine work in concert to provide enhanced clearance of influenza.

PMID 25522323


Current split influenza virus vaccines that induce strain-specific neutralising antibodies provide some degree of protection against influenza infection but there is a clear need to improve their effectiveness. The constant antigenic drift of influenza viruses means that vaccines are often not an exact match to the circulating strain and so levels of relevant antibodies may not be sufficiently high to afford protection. In the situation where the emergent influenza virus is completely novel, as is the case with pandemic strains, existing vaccines may provide no benefit. In this study we tested the concept of a combination vaccine consisting of sub-optimal doses of split influenza virus vaccine mixed with a cross-protective T-cell inducing lipopeptide containing the TLR2 ligand Pam2Cys. Mice immunised with combination vaccines showed superior levels of lung viral clearance after challenge compared to either split virus or lipopeptide alone, mediated through activation of enhanced humoral and/or additional cellular responses. The mechanism of action of these vaccines was dependent on the route of administration, with intranasal administration being superior to subcutaneous and intramuscular routes, potentially through the induction of memory CD8+ T cells in the lungs. This immunisation strategy not only provides a mechanism for minimising the dose of split virus antigen but also, through the induction of cross-protective CD8+ T cells, proves a breadth of immunity to provide potential benefit upon encounter with serologically diverse influenza isolates.