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Paper of the Month November 2015

Influence of Statins on Influenza Vaccine Response in Elderly Individuals

2015. Journal of Infectious Diseases. In press.


Steven Black, Uwe Nicolay, Giuseppe Del Giudice and Rino Rappuoli


Influenza vaccination strategies have targeted elderly individuals because they are at high risk of disease complications and mortality. Statins are a class of drugs used to treat hypercholesterolemia and are frequently used in the elderly population to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, statins are also known to have immunomodulatory effects that could impact influenza vaccine response. In a post hoc analysis, we performed a cross-sectional observational study nested within a comparative immunogenicity clinical trial of adjuvanted versus unadjuvanted influenza vaccine in elderly persons to evaluate the influence of statin therapy on the immune response to vaccination. Overall, data on >5000 trial participants were available for analysis. Comparison of hemagglutination-inhibiting geometric mean titers to influenza A(H1N1), A(H3N2), and B strains revealed that titers were 38% (95% confidence interval [CI], 27%–50%), 67% (95% CI, 54%–80%), and 38% (95% CI, 28%–29%) lower, respectively, in subjects receiving chronic statin therapy, compared with those not receiving chronic statin therapy. This apparent immunosuppressive effect of statins on the vaccine immune response was most dramatic in individuals receiving synthetic statins. These effects were seen in both the adjuvanted and unadjuvanted vaccine groups in the clinical trial. These results, if confirmed, could have implications both for future clinical trials design, as well as for vaccine use recommendations for elderly individuals.