Generalized herd effects and vaccine evaluation: impact of live influenza vaccine on off-target bacterial colonisation.


Interactions between pathogens and commensal microbes are major contributors to health and disease. Infectious diseases however are most often considered independent, viewed within a one-host one-pathogen paradigm and, by extension, the interventions used to treat and prevent them are measured and evaluated within this same paradigm. Vaccines, especially live vaccines, by stimulating immune responses or directly interacting with other microbes can alter the environment in which they act, with effects that span across pathogen species. Live attenuated infl uenza vaccines for example, while safe, increase upper respiratory tract bacterial carriage density of important human commensal pathogens like Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus. Further, by altering the ecological niche and dynamics of phylogenetically distinct microbes within the host, vaccines may unintentionally affect transmission of non-vaccine targeted pathogens. Thus, vaccine effects may span across species and across scales, from the individual to the population level. In keeping with traditional vaccine herd-effects that indirectly protect even unvaccinated individuals by reducing population prevalence of vaccine-targeted pathogens, we call these cross-species cross-scale effects "generalized herd-effects". As opposed to traditional herd-effects, "generalized" relaxes the assumption that the effect occurs at the level of the vaccine-target pathogen and "herd effect" implies, as usual, that the effects indirectly impact the population at large, including unvaccinated bystanders. Unlike traditional herd-effects that decrease population prevalence of the vaccine-target, generalized herd-effects may decrease or increase prevalence and disease by the off-target pathogen. LAIV, for example, by increasing pneumococcal density in the upper respiratory tract of vaccine recipients, especially children, may increase pneumococcal transmission and prevalence, leading to excess pneumococcal invasive disease in the population, especially among the elderly and others most susceptible to pneumococcal disease. However, these effects may also be beneficial, for example the large reductions in all-cause mortality noted following measles vaccines. Here we discuss evidence for these novel vaccine effects and suggest that vaccine monitoring and evaluation programs should consider generalized herd effects to appreciate the full impacts of vaccines, beneficial or detrimental, across species and scales that are inevitably hiding in plain sight, affecting human health and disease.

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