Understanding Gene Expression May Improve Hepatitis B Treatment

Researchers seek to predict age-related responses to hepatitis B vaccination.

A new model could potentially predict the efficacy of vaccination for hepatitis B in the elderly, a recent study indicates.

As people age, the risk of illnesses and infections increase. Vaccinations, which are proven to help prevent different diseases, are often used to trump this problem. However, the elderly have changes in their immune systems, which could potentially put a limit on the efficacy of these treatments.

Researchers at Case Western and Merck published an article in Nature Communications reporting a new model that could help predict an age-related response to the hepatitis B vaccination. The findings showed that biomarkers of inflammation can be utilized to predict a response.

During the current study, older adults who were hepatitis B naïve were given 3 vaccines, including 1 that was against HBV. The results of the study showed the elevated expression of genes increases B-cell response, as well as a higher memory B-cell frequencies that correlated with a stronger response with the vaccine.

However, an increased inflammatory response and frequencies of pro-inflammatory innate cells, followed by an increase in the red blood cells erythrocytes, showed a weaker response to the vaccine.

"We have known for some time that vaccine response changes with age, but we have not been clear on the mechanism nor the important role of inflammation," said researcher Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, PhD. "By understanding the gene expression of immune inflammatory pathways, we believe that we are close to creating models to predict and improve vaccine response."

With this new model and the new information it provides, the findings could help in the development of new vaccine schedules for the elderly to see if any additional steps should be taken to maximize the efficacy of the vaccine and any inflammation issues.