The impairment of immune functions in the elderly (immunosenescence) results in post-vaccination antibody titers that are significantly lower than in young individuals. It is, however, a controversial question whether also the quality of antibodies declines with age. In this study, we have therefore investigated the age-dependence of functional characteristics of antibody responses induced by vaccination with an inactivated flavivirus vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). For this purpose, we quantified TBE virus-specific IgG and neutralizing antibody titers in post-vaccination sera from groups of young and elderly healthy adults and determined antibody avidities and NT/ELISA titer ratios (functional activity). In contrast to the quantitative impairment of antibody production in the elderly, we found no age-related differences in the avidity and functional activity of antibodies induced by vaccination, which also appeared to be independent of the age at primary immunization. There was no correlation between antibody avidity and NT/ELISA ratios suggesting that additional factors affect the quality of polyclonal responses, independent of age. Our work indicates that healthy elderly people are able to produce antibodies in response to vaccination with similar avidity and functional activity as young individuals, albeit at lower titers. © 2012 Stiasny et al.
Stiasny, K., Aberle, J. H., Keller, M., Grubeck-Loebenstein, B., & Heinz, F. X. (2012). Age affects quantity but not quality of antibody responses after vaccination with an inactivated flavivirus vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis. PLoS ONE, 7(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0034145