ISCOMs (immunostimulating complexes): the first decade

Immunol Cell Biol. 1996 Feb;74(1):8-25. doi: 10.1038/icb.1996.2.


A little over a decade ago, novel immunostimulating complexes (ISCOMs) were described. This review examines the position and progress that ISCOM technology has achieved in the fields of vaccine research and medicine over this period. Much of the work on ISCOMs has remained in the area of vaccine research where there is still an urgent need for improved adjuvants to help combat important diseases such as AIDS, malaria and influenza. Currently the only widely licensed adjuvants for human use are the aluminium salts, but with the trend towards highly purified subunit vaccines, which are inherently less immunogenic than some of the older vaccines, potent adjuvants capable of promoting specific immune responses are required. ISCOMs are one such technology that offers many of these requirements and as their use in vaccines enters its second decade clinical trials are commencing that will establish whether these submicron, non-living particles composed of saponin, cholesterol, phospholipid and in many cases protein, are useful components for a range of human vaccines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / chemistry
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • ISCOMs / chemistry
  • ISCOMs / immunology*
  • Parasites / chemistry
  • Parasites / immunology
  • Quality Control
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / chemistry
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology*
  • Viruses / chemistry
  • Viruses / immunology


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • ISCOMs
  • Vaccines, Synthetic