chapter  6
20 Pages

Tuning the Immune Response to Our Advantage: Design of Vaccines with Tailored Functions

One of the most important medical achievements of mankind is the prevention of diseases by vaccination. The average human lifespan has increased by approximately 30 years in the twentieth century and the two most important contributions to this have been sanitation and vaccination [1]. In the past 200 years since Jenner’s epochal observation that infection with cowpox, which induces only a mild illness in humans, can prevent and protect against smallpox, vaccination has controlled not only the spread of this disease but also of diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, pertussis, Haemophilus influenza type B, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis AþB, varicella as well as pneumococcal and meningococcal infections. In fact, smallpox could be eradicated by continuous vaccinations in the twentieth century and the WHO expects polio to be erased in the very near future as well [2,3]. Hence, vaccines are considered to be one of the most successful medical interventions against infectious diseases. Despite these accomplishments, however, substantial morbidity and

mortality is still caused by pathogens like HIV, HCV, rotavirus, influenza virus, or M. tuberculosis and parasite infections like plasmodia, trypanosoma, leishmania, or schistosoma to name just a few.