Alterations in the human immune response to the hepatitis B vaccine among the elderly

Cell Immunol. 1987 Oct 1;109(1):89-96. doi: 10.1016/0008-8749(87)90294-2.


The specific binding of hepatitis B (HBs) antigen by lymphocytes from old people immunized with hepatitis B vaccine was explored. For that purpose HBs antigen was combined with fluorescent microspheres, and labeled antigen was allowed to react with lymphocytes from HBs vaccine-responsive or unresponsive people. Lymphocytes from 10 responders and 14 nonresponders were tested for their antigen-binding ability. For controls, lymphocytes were incubated with microspheres bearing human albumin. Lymphocytes from 8 out of 10 responders were able to recognize HBs antigen; for the nonresponders the ratio was 9 out of 14. HBs-binding lymphocytes were B cells but not T lymphocytes. B and T cells from responders and nonresponders were combined and cultivated for 8 days in the presence of HBs antigen, and antibody-producing cells were counted. Neither B cells alone nor B cells plus T cells from nonresponders were able to produce antibody. On the other hand B cells from unresponsive old people produced antibodies when they were cultivated in the presence of HBs antigen and T cells from responsive old people. These data suggest that some elderly individuals who do not produce antibody after in vivo immunization by HBs vaccine do have antibody-producing cells. Instead of a gap in their immune repertoire, these people are suffering from immune dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Hepatitis B Antibodies / biosynthesis*
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / immunology
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunization
  • Immunocompetence
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines / immunology*


  • Hepatitis B Antibodies
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines