Alum adjuvant: some of the tricks of the oldest adjuvant

J Med Microbiol. 2012 Jul;61(Pt 7):927-934. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.038943-0. Epub 2011 Dec 15.


Alum has been the most widely used adjuvant for over 80 years. Although there have been searches for alternative adjuvants, aluminium-containing adjuvants will continue to be used for many years due to their good track record of safety, low cost and adjuvanticity with a variety of antigens. For infections that can be prevented by induction of serum antibodies, aluminium-containing adjuvants formulated under optimal conditions are the adjuvants of choice. There are also some limitations of aluminium-containing adjuvants, which include local reactions, augmentation of IgE antibody responses, ineffectiveness for some antigens and inability to augment cell-mediated immune responses, especially cytotoxic T-cell responses. In this review, we describe the current knowledge regarding the mechanisms (both cellular and molecular) by which alum employs its adjuvant effect, although the final mechanism is not yet well-defined. Furthermore, we discuss how alum's adjuvanticity could be improved.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / administration & dosage*
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / adverse effects
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / economics
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Alum Compounds / administration & dosage*
  • Alum Compounds / adverse effects
  • Alum Compounds / economics
  • Alum Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Humans


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Alum Compounds
  • aluminum sulfate