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NIAID study finds higher dose of flu vaccine improves immune response in the elderly

virus infects so many people--some 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population every year.

In other influenza vaccine studies, higher antibody levels resulted in better protection against infection. Conversely, decreased antibody production in the elderly can leave them more susceptible to infection and the severe complications of influenza. Helping elderly people increase antibody production should help them fight off influenza infections, and this is exactly what Dr. Keitel and her colleagues set out to test when they began the clinical trial. They hypothesized that elderly people could be given higher doses of vaccine safely and that these higher doses would increase the antibody response and confer increased protection without increasing side effects.

In the study, the investigators randomly assigned 202 adults 65 years of age or older into four equal-sized groups: those receiving the normal dose of vaccine (15 micrograms); twice the normal dose (30 micrograms); four times the normal dose (60 micrograms); or a placebo. The average age of the volunteers was 72.4 years. All study participants were followed for a month post-vaccination to look for any vaccine-related side effects and to collect blood to evaluate antibody responses.

Dr. Keitel and her colleagues found that participants in the high-dose group (60 micrograms) had 44 to 79 percent higher levels of antibody than did those who received the normal dose of vaccine. Higher doses also increased the number of elderly volunteers achieving levels of antibody that have been associated with protection against influenza. Moreover, the vaccine was well-tolerated at all dosage levels. Although the higher doses of vaccine caused more mild side effects at the injection site, there were no significant differences in systemic symptoms such as fever or body aches among the groups.

The successful achievement of higher levels of antibodies in this study suggests that larger doses of vaccine
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Contact: Jason Bardi
jbardi@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
22-May-2006


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