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Baseline innate and T cell populations are correlates of protection against symptomatic influenza virus infection independent of serology


Evidence suggests that innate and adaptive cellular responses mediate resistance to the influenza virus and confer protection after vaccination. However, few studies have resolved the contribution of cellular responses within the context of preexisting antibody titers. Here, we measured the peripheral immune profiles of 206 vaccinated or unvaccinated adults to determine how baseline variations in the cellular and humoral immune compartments contribute independently or synergistically to the risk of developing symptomatic influenza. Protection correlated with diverse and polyfunctional CD4+ and CD8+ T, circulating T follicular helper, T helper type 17, myeloid dendritic and CD16+ natural killer (NK) cell subsets. Conversely, increased susceptibility was predominantly attributed to nonspecific inflammatory populations, including γδ T cells and activated CD16− NK cells, as well as TNFα+ single-cytokine-producing CD8+ T cells. Multivariate and predictive modeling indicated that cellular subsets (1) work synergistically with humoral immunity to confer protection, (2) improve model performance over demographic and serologic factors alone and (3) comprise the most important predictive covariates. Together, these results demonstrate that preinfection peripheral cell composition improves the prediction of symptomatic influenza susceptibility over vaccination, demographics or serology alone.

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