Recall responses in the lung environment are impacted by age in a pilot study of Mycobacterium bovis-BCG vaccinated rhesus macaques

Julia M. Scordo, Tucker J. Piergallini, Angélica M. Olmo-Fontánez, Archana Thomas, Hans Peter Raué, Mark Slifka, Joanne Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Age-related changes in the immune system increase susceptibility to infectious diseases. Vaccines are an important tool to prevent infection or boost immunological memory; however, vaccines are less effective in aged individuals. In order to protect our aging population from the threat of infectious diseases, we must gain a better understanding of age-related alterations in the immune response at the site of infection. The lung is one site of frequent infection in older individuals. In this study, we expanded on our previous work to study vaccine-induced immune responses in the local lung environment in a pilot study of aged rhesus macaques. To do this, we developed an in vivo model to probe recall responses to tuberculin challenge in the lungs 8 weeks and 16 weeks post-Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccination by performing targeted bronchoalveolar lavages. In parallel, we determined peripheral blood responses in vaccinated animals to compare systemic and local tissue responses to tuberculin challenge. We found that following lung tuberculin challenge 8 weeks post-vaccination, aged animals had reduced T cell responses, particularly within the CD8+ T cell compartment. Aged animals had decreased CD8+ effector and memory T cell recall responses and less activated CD8+ T cells. This diminished lung CD8+ T cell response in aged animals was maintained over time. Despite changes in the CD8+ T cell compartment, lung CD4+ T cell responses were similar between age groups. In the peripheral blood, we observed age-related changes in immune cell populations and plasma levels of immune mediators that were present prior to vaccination. Lastly, we found that peripheral blood mononuclear cells from aged BCG-vaccinated animals were functional in their response to antigen stimulation, behaving in a similar manner to those from their adult counterparts. These systemic observations were similar to those found in our previous study of BCG-vaccinated baboons, supporting the notion that tissue immune responses, and not systemic responses, to vaccination and challenge are impaired with age. These findings expand on our previous work to show that in addition to the skin, age-related changes in the lung environment impact recall immune responses to vaccination and challenge. The impact of age on local tissue responses to infectious challenge should be accounted for in the development of therapeutics or medical interventions aimed at boosting immune recall responses of aged individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111904
JournalExperimental Gerontology
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • Aging
  • BCG vaccination
  • Immune response
  • Lung
  • Tuberculin
  • rhesus macaques

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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