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The immune response to viral infections

T cells are crucial for protective immunity

Munich, 03/08/2012

Many modern vaccines use genetically altered viruses to induce protective immune responses to pathogenic viral strains. A recently published study throws new light on the elements that determine the immunogenic efficacy of antiviral vaccines. The study, undertaken by Professor Gerd Sutter and his group at LMU’s Institute for Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses in cooperation with teams at the Paul Ehrlich Institute and the Medical University of Hannover, looked at the factors that are critical for a rapid protective response to vaccines based on Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara (MVA). The researchers found that activation of so-called cytotoxic T cells plays a critical role in the establishment of protective immunity. The results have important implications for the development of new vaccines, particularly for use in outbreaks of epidemic disease, where rapid establishment of immunity is essential.

MVA was developed more than 30 years ago at LMU and has proven to be an effective and safe vaccine against smallpox. Nowadays MVA is widely used in research and development efforts devoted to so-called vector vaccines where it acts as a carrier for antigens from other pathogens. In the new study, Sutter and his team studied the immunological basis for the efficacy of MVA as a vaccine. They focused on identifying the components of the immune system that are important for rapid acquisition of protective immunity upon vaccination with MVA. “The finding that activation of T cell-mediated immunity is critical for protection was a surprise, because previous studies had suggested that effective protection was primarily associated with the formation of specific antibody proteins,” explains Sutter.

The new results suggest that effective activation of cytotoxic T cells may also play a central role in conferring protection against other infectious diseases. In addition, they provide a basis for the development of novel and more efficacious MVA-based vaccines that induce early T cell-mediated immunity against other pathogens. “Our goal is to contribute to the development of effective vaccines against newly emerging pathogens or infections that are difficult to treat, such as avian influenza virus, tuberculosis or malaria,” says Sutter, with an eye to the future. (göd/PH)

Publication:
Critical Role of Perforin-dependent CD8+ T Cell Immunity for Rapid Protective Vaccination in a Murine Model for Human Smallpox
M. Kremer, Y. Suezer, A. Volz, T. Frenz, M. Majzoub, K.-M. Hanschmann, M.H. Lehmann, U. Kalinke, G. Sutter
PLoS Pathog 8(3): e1002557. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002557

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Gerd Sutter
Institute for Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses, LMU
Phone: +49 89 2180 2610
Fax: 089 2180-16576
Email: gerd.sutter@lmu.de
Web: http://www.micro.vetmed.uni-muenchen.de/forschung/virologie/impfstoffforschung/index.html

 

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