Distinct T and NK cell populations may serve as immune correlates of protection against symptomatic pandemic influenza A(H1N1) virus infection during pregnancy
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Maternal influenza infection during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality. However, the link between the anti-influenza immune responses and health-related risks during infection is not well understood. We have analyzed memory T and NK cell mediated immunity (CMI) responses in pandemic influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 (pdm09) virus infected non-vaccinated pregnant women participating in the Norwegian Influenza Pregnancy Cohort (NorFlu). The cohort includes information on immunization, self-reported health and disease status, and biological samples (plasma and PBMC). Infected cases (N = 75) were defined by having a serum hemagglutination inhibition (HI) titer > = 20 to influenza pdm09 virus at the time of delivery, while controls (N = 75) were randomly selected among non-infected pregnant women (HI titer <10). In ELISpot assays cases had higher frequencies of IFNγ+ CD8+ T cells responding to pdm09 virus or conserved CD8 T cell-restricted influenza A virus epitopes, compared to controls. Within this T cell population, frequencies of CD95+ late effector (CD45RA+CCR7-) and naive (CD45RA+CCR7+) CD8+ memory T cells correlated inversely with self-reported influenza illness (ILI) symptoms. ILI symptoms in infected women were also associated with lower numbers of poly-functional (IFNγ+TNFα+, IL2+IFNγ+, IL2+IFNγ+TNFα+) CD4+ T cells and increased frequencies of IFNγ+CD3-CD7+ NK cells compared to asymptomatic cases, or controls, after stimulation with the pdm09 virus. Taken together, virus specific and functionally distinct T and NK cell populations may serve as cellular immune correlates of clinical outcomes of pandemic influenza disease in pregnant women. Our results may provide information important for future universal influenza vaccine design.