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  • 1 Semmelweis University Institute of Public Health Budapest Hungary
  • 2 Hungarian Society for Gerontology and Geriatry Budapest Hungary
  • 3 Semmelweis University Institute of Public Health Nagyvárad tér 4 H-1089 Budapest Hungary
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The sharp increase of life expectancy and the increasing ratio of ageing population pose new challenges for the public health system. The elderly suffer from more frequent and severe infections than young people. Theoretically, vaccination could protect the elderly against several infectious diseases, but due to their age-related immune impairment, vaccination might fail in many cases. Instead of ineffective vaccination campaigns, exploration and restoration of age-dependent dysregulation of their immune functions have to be placed into the focus of recent research. Frequent comorbidities in these people augment immune defects. Immunosenescence affects both the innate and adaptive immunity. Disturbances in macrophage-derived cytokine release and reduction of the natural killer cell mediated cytotoxicity lead to increased frequency of respiratory, gastrointestinal and skin infections. Although the humoral immunity retains most of its original activity through life span, ageing dampens the ability of B cells to produce antibodies against novel antigens. Age-related declination of the cellular immunity is the consequence of thymic atrophy, reduced output of new T lymphocytes, accumulation of anergic memory cells, deficiencies in the cytokine production and uncertain antigen presentation. Persistent infection by different herpesviruses and other parasites contribute to the loss of immunosurveillance and premature exhaustion of T cells.

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