Introduction: During the past century, vaccinologists have attempted to mimic pathogens in their immune-enhancing capacity. This led to the development of life-saving vaccines based on live attenuated viruses, bacteria and toxoids. Hence, intense research in vaccine adjuvant discovery has focused on toll like receptors, mutant toxins and viral and bacterial vectors. Nutritive components such as vitamins and select polyphenols also possess immunomodulating properties without the potential toxic and adverse side effects of agents that mimic danger signals.
Areas covered: This review pertains to immunomodulatory properties of nutritive components, that is vitamins A, C, D, E, flavonoids and plant oils, as potential vaccine adjuvants and delivery systems, covering Pubmed publication searches from 1980 through 2011.
Expert opinion: This relatively unexplored field of the potential of nutritive components as vaccine adjuvants holds great promise to promote the development of effective and above all safe vaccines. Hence the future focus should be placed on enhancing their efficacy, mainly through novel approaches in designing structural derivatives, formulations, delivery systems and routes of administration. As safety has been the major issue in development of novel vaccines, this new approach will probably result in new discoveries in designing safe and effective vaccines.