Indexed on: 08 Apr '09Published on: 08 Apr '09Published in: Expert review of vaccines
The ongoing epizootic of highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza and its direct transmissibility and high pathogenicity in humans has led to renewed interest in the development of influenza vaccines with enhanced immunogenicity. Influenza vaccines are currently under development against influenza strains that are potentially pandemic threats, such as H5N1, as well as against the current seasonal influenza strains for use in populations susceptible to severe influenza disease. Influenza vaccines may be generally divided into two types: seasonal vaccines for use in a population that is largely primed to subtypes of the circulating influenza A strains and pandemic influenza vaccines that are designed to protect against influenza A viruses of a hemagglutinin (HA) subtype, to which the vast majority of the population is immunologically naive. Pandemic influenza vaccines can be further subdivided into prepandemic vaccines produced for use prior to or just after the declaration of a pandemic, and pandemic influenza vaccines that would be produced and used only after a pandemic is declared. Prepandemic influenza vaccines are formulated using HA and neuraminidase, which are likely to be antigenically similar to the influenza virus subtype deemed to pose the most probable pandemic threat. Enhanced vaccine immunogenicity is desirable for pandemic influenza vaccines and for seasonal vaccines used in target populations, such as the elderly, in which vaccine responses against the circulating influenza subtypes may be weak. Various methods to enhance the immunogenicity of influenza vaccines are under evaluation. Along with dose escalation and alternative delivery routes, strategies for improving the immunogenicity of influenza vaccines have focused on the use of immunologic adjuvants. An adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine, Fluad, has been licensed in some countries in Europe since 1997 for the elderly population, and a number of clinical trials have been completed or are in progress evaluating the use of adjuvants with pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines. This review will focus on the use of emulsion-based adjuvants for enhancing the immunogenicity of pandemic influenza vaccines and of seasonal influenza vaccines in target populations.