CD4+T-cell immunity after pandemic influenza vaccination cross-reacts with seasonal antigens and functionally differs from active influenza infection


Full correspondence: Prof. Martina Sester, Department of Transplant and Infection Immunology, Institute of Virology, Saarland University, D-66421 Homburg, Germany

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Antigen-specific antibodies are well characterized after vaccination with pandemic H1N1 or seasonal influenza vaccines. However, knowledge on cellular immunity toward pandemic H1N1 after vaccination and infection and cross-reactivities toward seasonal antigens is limited. Nineteen individuals were vaccinated with the pandemic H1N1 vaccine. Among those, ten had been prevaccinated against seasonal influenza. CD4+ T cells specific for pandemic H1N1 and for seasonal vaccine, and antibodies were monitored using flow cytometry and ELISA/neutralization assays, respectively. In addition, seven patients with acute pandemic influenza infection were analyzed. Pandemic H1N1 vaccination induced a strong 4.63-fold (IQR 4.16) increase in antigen-specific CD4+ T cells that was more pronounced in individuals not prevaccinated with seasonal influenza (p = 0.01). T-cell levels toward seasonal vaccine concomitantly rose by 2.71-fold (IQR 2.26). Likewise, prevaccination with seasonal influenza induced a less pronounced increase in specific antibodies. Influenza-specific T cells in vaccinees had a Th1 phenotype mainly coexpressing IFN-γ and IL-2, whereas patients with active pandemic influenza showed a shift toward cells predominantly expressing IFN-γ. In conclusion, T cells toward seasonal influenza antigens cross-react with pandemic H1N1 antigens and affect induction of specific T cells after pandemic influenza vaccination. In addition, the cytokine patterns of specific T cells during acute H1N1 infection and after vaccination differ, and the predominantly dual-positive cytokine profile of vaccine-induced T cells suggests sufficient functionality to confer successful virus control.