01 January 2012. Vol.3 No.1
Influenza is an important contributor to morbidity and mortality worldwide. Accumulation of genetic mutations termed antigenic drift, allows influenza viruses to inflict yearly epidemics that may result in 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually. Over 90% of influenza-related deaths occur in the older adult population. This is at least in part a result of increasing dysregulation of the immune system with age, termed immunosenescence. This dysregulation results in reduced capacity to cope with infections and decreased responsiveness to vaccination. The older adult population is in dire need of improved vaccines capable of eliciting protective responses in the face of a waning immune system. This review focuses on the status of immunity, responses to influenza vaccination, and strategies that are currently being explored to elicit enhanced immune responses in this high risk population.