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Abstract

Influenza virus is a globally important respiratory pathogen which causes a high degree of morbidity and mortality annually. The virus is continuously undergoing antigenic change and thus bypasses the host's acquired immunity to influenza. Despite the improvement in antiviral therapy during the last decade, vaccination is still the most effective method of prophylaxis. Vaccination induces a good degree of protection (60–90% efficacy) and is well tolerated by the recipient. For those at risk of complications from influenza, annual vaccination is recommended due to the antigenic changes in circulating strains. However, there is still room for improvement in vaccine efficacy, long-lasting effect, ease of administration and compliance rates. The mucosal tissues of the respiratory tract are the main portal entry of influenza, and the mucosal immune system provides the first line of defence against infection. Secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) and IgM are the major neutralizing antibodies directed against mucosal pathogens. These antibodies work to prevent pathogen entry and can function intracellularly to inhibit replication of virus. This review describes influenza virus infection, epidemiology, clinical presentation and immune system response, particularly as it pertains to mucosal immunity and vaccine use. Specifically, this review provides an update of the current status on influenza vaccination and concentrates on the two main types of influenza vaccines currently in use, namely the cold-adapted vaccine (CAV) given intranasally/orally, and the inactivated vaccine (IV) delivered subcutanously or intramuscularly. The commercially available trivalent IV (TIV) elicits good serum antibody responses but induces poorly mucosal IgA antibody and cell-mediated immunity. In contrast, the CAV may elicit a long-lasting, broader immune (humoral and cellular) response, which more closely resembles natural immunity. The immune response induced by these two vaccines will be compared in this review.