Vaccination against the seasonal influenza virus is the best way to prevent infection. Nevertheless, vaccine efficacy remains far from optimal especially in high-risk populations such as the elderly. Recent technological advancements have facilitated rapid and precise identification of the B and T cell epitopes that are targets for protective responses. While these discoveries have undoubtedly brought the field closer to "universal" influenza virus vaccines, choosing the correct antigen is only one piece of the equation. Achieving efficacy and durability requires a detailed understanding of the diverse host factors and pathways that are required for attaining optimal responses. Sequencing technologies, systems biology, and immunological studies have recently advanced our understanding of the diverse aspects of the host response required for vaccine efficacy. In this paper, we review the critical role of the host response in determining efficacious responses and discuss the gaps in knowledge that will need to be addressed if the field is to be successful in developing new and more effective influenza virus vaccines.
Keywords: adaptive immunity; adjuvants; dendritic cells; host factors; influenza virus; innate immunity; polymorphisms; systems biology; vaccines.