Prospective, Longitudinal Study on Specific Cellular Immune Responses after Vaccination with an Adjuvanted, Recombinant Zoster Vaccine in Kidney Transplant Recipients

Solid organ transplant recipients have an up to ninefold higher risk of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) reactivation than the general population. Due to lifelong immunosuppressive therapy, vaccination against VZV may be less effective in kidney transplant (KTX) recipients. In the current study, twelve female and 17 male KTX recipients were vaccinated twice with the adjuvanted, recombinant zoster vaccine Shingrix™, which contains the VZV glycoprotein E (gE). Cellular immunity against various VZV antigens was analyzed with interferon-gamma ELISpot. We observed the strongest vaccination-induced changes after stimulation with a gE peptide pool. One month after the second vaccination, median responses were 8.0-fold higher than the responses prior to vaccination (p = 0.0006) and 4.8-fold higher than responses after the first vaccination (p = 0.0007). After the second vaccination, we observed an at least twofold increase in ELISpot responses towards gE peptides in 22 out of 29 patients (76%). Male sex, good kidney function, early time point after transplantation, and treatment with tacrolimus or mycophenolate were correlated significantly with higher VZV-specific cellular immunity, whereas diabetes mellitus was correlated with impaired responses. Thus, our data indicate that vaccination with Shingrix™ significantly augmented cellular, VZV gE-specific immunity in KTX recipients, which was dependent on several covariates.


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