Adjuvants--a balance between toxicity and adjuvanticity

Vaccine. 1993;11(3):293-306. doi: 10.1016/0264-410x(93)90190-9.


Adjuvants have been used to augment the immune response in experimental immunology as well as in practical vaccination for more than 60 years. The chemical nature of adjuvants, their mode of action and the profile of their side effects are highly variable. Some of the side effects can be ascribed to an unintentional stimulation of different mechanisms of the immune system whereas others may reflect general adverse pharmacological reactions. The most common adjuvants for human use today are still aluminium hydroxide, aluminium phosphate and calcium phosphate although oil emulsions, products from bacteria and their synthetic derivatives as well as liposomes have also been tested or used in humans. In recent years monophosphoryl lipid A, ISCOMs with Quil-A and Syntex adjuvant formulation (SAF) containing the threonyl derivative of muramyl dipeptide have been under consideration for use as adjuvants in humans. At present the choice of adjuvants for human vaccination reflects a compromise between a requirement for adjuvanticity and an acceptable low level of side effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / adverse effects
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Bacterial / pharmacology
  • Emulsions
  • Humans
  • ISCOMs / pharmacology
  • Liposomes
  • Minerals / pharmacology
  • Oils / pharmacology


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Emulsions
  • ISCOMs
  • Liposomes
  • Minerals
  • Oils