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UV-induced immunosuppression and the efficacy of vaccination.


Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) suppresses immunity by complex pathways, initiated by chromophores located in the skin and ending with the generation of specific subsets of T and B regulatory cells. The primary and memory (recall) immune response to a wide variety of antigens, including microorganisms, can be reduced by UVR, leading to the possibility that the efficacy of vaccination could be similarly reduced. A limited number of animal models of vaccination demonstrate that this may indeed be the case. The situation in human subjects has not been rigorously assessed but there are indications from a variety of sources that UVR adversely affects the immune responses to several vaccines. These studies are reviewed and the implications for vaccine administration discussed. As vaccination represents a major public health measure world-wide for the control of an increasing number of common infections, it is important to maximise its efficacy; therefore further evaluation of UVR in the context of vaccination is required and warranted.