Top image

By understanding the ways in which the immune system protects from infection and responds to vaccination, new vaccines are being developed to optimally harness these pathways.

  • Human beings have a complicated system of protective mechanisms that prevent infectious diseases or reduce their severity. In particular, stimulation of the immune system during most infections provide immunity that can in many cases block re-infection. Successful vaccines have harnessed these mechanisms to confer protection without the disease associated with natural infection.
  • Many major infectious diseases have been controlled or eradicated by widespread vaccination but a number of globally important infections remain where effective vaccines remain difficult to produce. Many of these pathogens have evolved ways of evading immunity. It is therefore essential to understand what aspects of the immune system are best at preventing infection from a particular pathogen and how to overcome microbial immune evasion by directing the immune response differently.
  • The ways in which understanding of infectious disease immunology may improve vaccines includes enhancing immunity at sites of pathogen entry such as the skin, nose and lung or gut; targeting immune responses to parts of the microbe that are relatively hidden, or increasing the size of the immune response using immune stimulators or new delivery methods.
  • Vaccines may also be effective in stimulating the immune system to target cancers or altering aberrant inflammatory responses. New ways of thinking about the application of vaccine technology will promote their use in non-traditional ways.

Key members of this theme