Vaccines: Presentation


Vaccines have been the success story of immunology and medicine, saving millions of lives by employing nature's own powerful armoury against pathogens. This armoury known as the immune system has been shaped and optimised for millions of years by coevolution between higher organisms and pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. The adaptive immune system, which includes antibody‐producing B‐cells and T‐cells, is so powerful that it is able to fight against all foreign intruders, and in most cases controls pathogens of all kinds. Moreover, it develops an immunological memory which allows quick and effective recall responses against previously encountered pathogens. However, there is a caveat with the effectiveness of adaptive immune responses; when compared with the rapid multiplication of viruses and bacteria (hours), adaptive immune responses need a considerable length of time to be effective (days to weeks). The principle of vaccination is to expose the immune system with components of the pathogens it may encounter, allowing the immune system to mount effective measures and immunological memory and thus be prepared to fight the real pathogen if it comes along.

Key Concepts:

  • The adaptive immune system is able to fight against all types of pathogens.

  • Vaccinations allow the adaptive immune system to mount effective memory responses without the full pathologies caused by the pathogen.

  • For optimal immune responses vaccines should contain both foreign material and a danger signal.

  • Dendritic cells are an important cellular component of danger recognition, and they direct the type of adaptive immune response mounted.

  • Danger signals are recognised at the molecular level by pattern recognition receptors, for example, TLR, NLR, RLH and C‐type lectins.

Keywords: vaccines; adjuvants; dendritic cells; antigen processing; cytokines; immune responses


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Hochrein, Hubertus, and O'Keeffe, Meredith(Jan 2013) Vaccines: Presentation. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000493.pub2]