Emory Report
December 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 14



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December 8
, 2008
Researchers find clues to vaccine effectiveness

By Emily Rios

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Emory Vaccine Center have developed a new approach to predict the effectiveness of vaccines without exposing individuals to infection. The discovery addresses a long-standing challenge of only being able to determine immunity long after vaccination, and often only after exposure to infection.

The study, which used the yellow fever vaccine (YF-17D) as a model, was published in Nature Immunology.

“Despite the great success of the yellow fever vaccine, little has been known about the immunological mechanisms that make it effective,” says lead researcher Bali Pulendran, Yerkes researcher and a professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Pulendran’s team sought to determine what makes such a vaccine effective so researchers can use the model in designing new and better vaccines against global pandemics and emerging infections.

Researchers vaccinated 15 healthy individuals with YF-17D and studied the T cell and antibody responses in their blood.

“Using a bioinformatics approach, we were able to identify distinct gene signatures that correlated with the T cell response and the antibody response induced by the vaccine,” says Pulendran. “To determine whether these gene signatures could predict immune response, we vaccinated a second group of individuals and were able to predict with up to 90 percent accuracy which of the vaccinated individuals would develop a strong T or B cell immunity to yellow fever.”

The team is now working to determine whether this approach can be used to predict the effectiveness and immunity of other vaccines, including flu vaccines.