Immune system correlates of extensive limb swelling in response to conjugated pneumococcal vaccination

NPJ Vaccines. 2018 May 18:3:17. doi: 10.1038/s41541-018-0059-3. eCollection 2018.


Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is recommended for adults with chronic disease. Extensive limb swelling (ELS) is an acute vigorous local inflammatory reaction following vaccination. Predisposing immune system correlates and the influence of ELS on vaccine responses are not known. Here, we report a case of a 67-year-old woman with a history of multiple pneumonias who had a detailed immunological work-up pre-vaccination because of suspected immunodeficiency. Four days following a first vaccination with PCV13 she developed ELS-mimicking erysipelas. Treatment with 20 mg cortisone completely alleviated symptoms within 2 days. Skin biopsy showed a dense dermal and subdermal infiltration dominated by CD4+ T cells and macrophages. In a multiplexed serotype-specific measurement of the anti-pneumococcal IgG response, the patient showed very broad and strong vaccine responses. Pre-vaccination titers were low for the vaccine serotypes. We did not find in vivo nor in vitro evidence of an excessive T cell response to the diphtheria-derived PCV carrier protein. However, we could demonstrate a high antibody titer to a non-vaccine serotype, indicating in vivo pre-exposure to pneumococcus bacteria. Thus, traces of pneumococcal proteins included in PCV13 may have boosted pre-existing pneumococcus-specific T helper cells, which subsequently orchestrated ELS. Our case raises awareness for the risk of vaccine-induced ELS, especially in patients with a history of recurrent pneumococcal disease and thus partial immunity.

Publication types

  • Case Reports