RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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A Longitudinal Hepatitis B Vaccine Cohort Demonstrates Long-lasting Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Cellular Immunity Despite Loss of Antibody Against HBV Surface Antigen.

BACKGROUND: Long-lasting protection resulting from hepatitis B vaccine, despite loss of antibody against hepatitis B virus (HBV) surface antigen (anti-HBs), is undetermined.

METHODS: We recruited persons from a cohort vaccinated with plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine in 1981 who have been followed periodically since. We performed serological testing for anti-HBs and microRNA-155 and assessed HBV-specific T-cell responses by enzyme-linked immunospot and cytometric bead array. Study subgroups were defined 32 years after vaccination as having an anti-HBs level of either ≥10 mIU/mL (group 1; n = 13) or <10 mIU/mL (group 2; n = 31).

RESULTS: All 44 participants, regardless of anti-HBs level, tested positive for tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin 10, or interleukin 6 production by HBV surface antigen-specific T cells. The frequency of natural killer T cells correlated with the level of anti-HBs (P = .008). The proportion of participants who demonstrated T-cell responses to HBV core antigen varied among the cytokines measured, suggesting some natural exposure to HBV in the study group. No participant had evidence of breakthrough HBV infection.

CONCLUSIONS: Evidence of long-lasting cellular immunity, regardless of anti-HBs level, suggests that protection afforded by primary immunization with plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine during childhood and adulthood lasts at least 32 years.

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