Scientists have figured out why older people are more likely to get the flu

Doctors explained why flu shots do not help older people

Immunity of older people almost does not adapt to new varieties of the virus, and uses the “old baggage” to fight the new infection.

Older people are more likely to become infected with the flu and are less likely to acquire immunity to the virus after vaccinations due to the fact that their bodies have ceased to produce a diverse set of antibodies. This is the conclusion reached by doctors who published an article in the journal Cell Host & Microbiome.

"We found out that older people are much worse at coping with new versions of the flu virus because their antibody-producing cells do not have enough flexibility. Vaccine creators should take this into account in order to create vaccines that will protect "- said Patrick Wilson of the University of Chicago (USA).

Wilson and his colleagues figured out why many vaccinations do not help older people and why, in general, they are much more likely to have flu and die from it than middle-aged men and women and young people.

To answer this question, scientists collected blood samples from a dozen elderly volunteers and three dozen young people who recently received a flu shot. They extracted from them the so-called plasmablasts. They are a special subtype of B-cells that do not recognize new pathogens, but produce antibodies to the already known viruses in "industrial" quantities.

Scientists have propagated these little bodies and checked how the protein molecules they produce will react to the emergence of various types of influenza virus circulating in the US in recent years and decades, including the famous "bird" and "swine" flu.

These observations revealed an extremely unexpected thing – it turned out that the B-cells of the elderly produced a small number of relatively weak antibodies that responded to a wide range of viruses. Plasmablasts of young people, on the contrary, produced a large number of very different antibodies designed to combat specific versions of the flu.

Despite the fact that scientists today are actively trying to create such "universal" antibodies, this feature of older people was not a plus from the point of view of immunologists. It means that their immunity hardly adapts to the new varieties of the virus, and uses the “old baggage” to fight the new infection.

Recall that in Romania, dozens of people died from the flu. Last week in the country announced a flu epidemic. Since then, 18 people have died from the disease.

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