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After primary infection in childhood, varicella zoster virus (VZV) remains latent in the dorsal route ganglia. Its reactivation later in life can lead to a zoster episode. VZV-specific, T-cell-mediated immunity (VZV-CMI) is likely to be important in preventing symptomatic reactivation. As CMI declines with age, a vaccine enhancing VZV-CMI might be effective in decreasing the incidence or severity of zoster in elderly subjects. A randomized, double blind controlled trial assessing CMI responses of elderly subjects immunized with a live attenuated, VZV-Oka vaccine was conducted. Two hundred healthy volunteers (55-75 years of age) received either a single injection of the VZV vaccine (PMC), containing 3200 (Oka 3200), 8500 (Oka 8500), or 41,650 (Oka 41650) PFU of live VZV, or a pneumococcus vaccine control group (Pneumo 23((R)). The immune response to VZV was assessed by measuring the T-cell response to VZV antigens, i.e. proliferation (stimulation index, SI), precursor cell frequency (PCF), cytokine secretion, and antibody titers. Six weeks post-vaccination, VZV-specific SI (adjusted mean values) was significantly greater (P<0.0001) in the 3 vaccine groups (with SI=5. 6 for Oka 3200; SI=5.0 for Oka 8500, and SI=7.2 for Oka 41,650) than in the control group (SI=2.9). The increase in PCF was striking, with 72.4, 91.2 and 85.1 precursors per million cells respectively in these 3 vaccine groups, vs 26.3 in the control group. No significant IL-4 secretion was observed in any subject, whereas the presence of IFN-gamma secretion was found to correlate with good responder status. The increase of these CMI parameters did not depend upon the titer of virus injected. Geometric mean titers of VZV antibodies increased in all vaccine groups and remained unchanged in the control group. Nevertheless, no correlation between the antibody response and the cell-mediated response was found. Live attenuated VZV vaccine caused a significant increase in VZV-CMI in a healthy, elderly population. No relationship between vaccine dose and the intensity of the specific response was found.


Journal article



Publication Date





1700 - 1706


Aged, Aging, Antigens, Viral, B-Lymphocytes, Child, Cytokines, Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic, Double-Blind Method, Herpes Zoster, Herpesvirus 3, Human, Humans, Lymphocyte Activation, Middle Aged, Phenotype, T-Lymphocytes, Vaccines, Attenuated, Viral Vaccines