The occurrence of herpes zoster (HZ) correlates with declining memory T cells that had responded to earlier infection with varicella-zoster virus (VZV). There are especially lower T cell responses to the single immunodominant VZV protein glycoprotein E (gE) in people over 50 years of age, although antibody responses to VZV persist. Therefore, a live attenuated zoster vaccine (ZVL) aimed at restoring T cell responses was developed. Surprisingly, a recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV) consisting of gE combined with the AS01B adjuvant system proved superior in efficacy and durability. In this issue of the JCI, Laing, Ford, and colleagues showed that both vaccines stimulated preimmunization naive CD4+ T cells, not just memory CD4+ T cells, to gE, and recruited these naive responses into the overall memory response. However, compared with ZVL, RZV stimulated this response to a much greater degree. These results will help guide development of more effective and durable vaccines for older individuals.
Anthony L. Cunningham, Kerrie J. Sandgren, Naomi R. Truong