Volume 37, Issue 4 Pages 539-676 (21 January 2019)
Review article Open access
Would immunization be the same without cross-reactivity?
Ivo Vojtek, Philippe Buchy, T. Mark Doherty, Bernard Hoet
“Cross-reactivity” (the observed immune response against pathogen types not specifically targeted by the vaccine antigen composition) and “cross-protection” (clinical protection against related non-vaccine microorganism types) are vaccinology concepts that are attracting renewed interest in the context of disease prevention. National health authorities are collecting mounting evidence of the importance of cross-reactivity. For some vaccines, this has been substantiated by cross-protection data from clinical studies and/or post-licensure data, where their introduction into immunization programmes has shown beneficial impacts on disease caused by related non-vaccine microorganisms. This knowledge has influenced the way new vaccines are designed, developed, and evaluated in real-life settings. Some of the new vaccines are now designed with the specific aim of having a greater breadth of protection. Ideal vaccine antigens therefore include epitopes with conserved homology across related pathogen types, because it is not always possible to include the antigens of all the individual types of a given pathogen species. The use of novel adjuvants with greater immunostimulatory properties can also contribute to improved overall vaccine cross-reactivity, as could the use of antigen delivery platforms. The growing body of evidence allows us to better understand the full impact of vaccines – beyond vaccine-type disease – which should be taken into consideration when assessing the full value of vaccination programmes.