You may have read about recent research, published in Science,Â describing a technique for revealingÂ which viruses have infected someone by scanning antiviral antibodies in the blood.
Emory immunologistsÂ have identified corresponding cells in which long-lived antibody production resides. A subset of plasma cells keep a catalog of how an adultâ€™s immune system responded to infections decades ago, in childhood encounters with measles or mumps viruses.
The results, published Tuesday, July 14 inÂ Immunity, could provide vaccine designers with a goalpost when aiming for long-lasting antibody production.
â€œIf youâ€™re developing a vaccine, you want to fill up this compartment with cells that respond to your target antigen,â€ says co-senior author F. Eun-Hyung Lee, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and director of Emory Healthcareâ€™s Asthma, Allergy and Immunology program.
The findings could advance investigation of autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis, by better defining the cells that produce auto-reactive antibodies.
Lee says that her team’s research on plasma cells in humansÂ provided insights unavailable from mice, since mice don’t live as long and their plasma cellsÂ also have a different patternÂ of protein markers.Â More here.
An outbreak of measles in the state of Washington last year sickened 19 children. Of those who fell ill, 18 had something in commonâ€”they were not vaccinated.
Saad Omer aims to increase vaccine compliance to prevent childhood diseases.
For Emory Rollins School of Public Health researcher Saad Omer, the Washington outbreak is a perfect example of the effect on an entire community when individuals are unimmunized. His research aims to shed light on ways to encourage increased vaccine compliance for adults and their children.
Omer says vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, influenza, and pertussis often start among persons who forego vaccinations, spread rapidly within unvaccinated populations, and also spread to other subpopulations.
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, Omer and his colleagues reviewed evidence from several states showing that vaccine refusal due to nonmedical reasons puts children in communities with high rates of refusal at higher risk for infectious diseases such as measles and whooping cough.
Even children whose parents do not refuse vaccination are put at risk because “herd immunity” normally protects children who are too young to be vaccinated, who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, or whose immune systems do not respond sufficiently to vaccination.
Research findings indicate that everyone who lives in a community with a high proportion of unvaccinated individuals has an elevated risk of developing a vaccine-preventable disease.
Read more about Omerâ€™s research on vaccine refusals in the fall 2009 issue of Public Health magazine.
Omer also discusses the importance of vaccinating against the H1N1 virus in an Oct. 16 article in The New York Times.