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- Open Access
Long-term maintenance of diphtheria-specific antibodies after booster vaccination is hampered by latent infection with Cytomegalovirus
© The Author(s). 2017
Received: 1 March 2017
Accepted: 19 June 2017
Published: 26 June 2017
Many currently used vaccines are less immunogenic in the elderly compared to young adults. The impact of latent infection with Cytomegalovirus (CMV) on vaccine-induced antibody responses has been discussed controversially. We have demonstrated that recall responses to diphtheria vaccination are frequently insufficient in elderly persons and that antibody concentrations decline substantially within 5 years. In the current study we show that within a cohort of healthy elderly (n = 87; median age 71 years, range 66–92) antibody responses to a booster vaccination against diphtheria do not differ between CMV-negative and CMV-positive individuals 4 weeks after vaccination.. However, the goal of diphtheria-vaccination is long-term protection and this is achieved by circulating anti-toxin antibodies. Diphtheria-specific antibody concentrations decline faster in CMV-positive compared to CMV-negative older adults leading to an increased proportion of persons without protective antibody concentrations 5 years after booster vaccination and endangering long-term protection. This finding could be relevant for vaccination schedules.
Number and percentage of persons with antibody concentrations below the protective level
T cell and B cell subsets in CMV-negative and CMV-positive individuals
mean ± SD
mean ± SD
63.0 ± 12.4
52.0 ± 15.5
36.2 ± 12.5
38.5 ± 15.3
0.6 ± 0.4
5.3 ± 4.2
0.7 ± 0.6
4.7 ± 5.2
42.2 ± 16.2
28.9 ± 15.4
25.4 ± 9.7
17.9 ± 14.0
8.9 ± 8.8
8.4 ± 7.3
24.5 ± 16.7
45.7 ± 17.5
19.5 ± 8.6
16.8 ± 5.6
67.7 ± 11.9
64.6 ± 12.5
11.2 ± 8.0
11.4 ± 4.4
8.3 ± 6.1
8.4 ± 3.6
9.4 ± 2.6
11.2 ± 6.8
summary, our data show that diphtheria-specific antibody concentrations decline faster in CMV-positive compared to CMV-negative older adults leading to an increased proportion of persons without protective antibody concentrations 5 years after booster vaccination and endangering long-term protection. This finding could be relevant for vaccination schedules. One possible reason for the faster decline of antibody concentrations might be an impaired maintenance and/or survival of long-lived plasma cells in the bone marrow. We have previously reported a decrease of diphtheria-specific plasma cells in the bone marrow with age , but the CMV-status was not taken into consideration in this small cohort. Recent data in our laboratory showed an increase of inflammatory and oxidative stress parameters in the bone marrow of older patients and at the same time a decrease of IL-7 and a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL), which is a survival factor for plasma cells . The impact of latent CMV-infection on the bone marrow microenvironment and the antigen-experienced lymphocytes residing there is not yet known.
Materials and methods
age (median, range)
BMI (median, range)
Determination of IgG antibody concentrations
Microtiter plates were coated with 1 μg/ml diphtheria toxoid (Statens Serum Institute) and blocked with 0.01 M Glycin. Serum samples were tested in duplicates. Peroxidase-labeled rabbit anti-human IgG (Chemicon/Millipore) antibody was used as secondary antibody. IgG antibodies were quantified in IU/ml using standard human anti-diphtheria serum (NIBSC). The detection limit of the assays used was 0.01 IU/ml and values below the limit of detection were set to 0.005 IU/ml. Antibody concentrations above 0.1 IU/ml were considered as protective.
Antibodies against Cytomegalovirus (CMV) were determined using a commercially available ELISA Kit (Siemens). Reciprocal titers above 231 were considered positive.
PBMC were washed with PBS and stained with anti-CD3-PE-Cy7 (Biolegend), anti-CD4-PerCP (BD Pharmingen), anti-CD8-PE (BD Pharmingen), anti CD28-APC (Biolegend), anti CD45RO-FITC (BD Pharmingen), anti-CD20-PerCP (Biolegend), anti-CD27-APC-Cy7(Biolegend) and anti-IgD-FITC (BD Pharmingen) antibodies for 20 min, 4 °C in the dark. After washing with PBS, cells were analyzed using a FACS Canto II cytometer and FACSDiva software (BD).
Comparisons between two independent groups (CMV-negative vs. CMV-positive) were calculated using Mann-Whitney U test. Differences between paired samples (different time points) were calculated using Wilcoxon signed-rank test. The distribution of categorical data (e.g. protected/unprotected) was calculated using the Pearson Chi-square test. p < 0.05 was considered significant for all tests.
This work was supported by funds of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Anniversary Fund, project number 13524; www.oenb.at). The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007–2013] under Grant Agreement No: 280,873 ADITEC. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets supporting the conclusions of this article are included within the article and the Additional file 1. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
BW planned the study, performed experiments, analyzed data, recruited participants and wrote the manuscript. MK performed experiments and analyzed data. BGL planned the study and wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
The study was approved by the local ethics committee (Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria) and in accordance with changes in the legal requirements the second vaccination was registered at the EU Clinical Trials Register (EU-CTR) as an open exploratory Phase 4 clinical trial with the EUDRACT number 2009–011742-26. All participants gave their written informed consent.
Consent for publication
All authors declare that they do not have any competing interests.
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