, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 537–545 | Cite as

Immune parameters associated with mortality in the elderly are context-dependent: lessons from Sweden, Holland and Belgium

  • Graham Pawelec
Research Article


The pioneering Swedish OCTO/NONA-Immune longitudinal studies led by Anders Wikby in Jönköping in the 1990s established a cluster of simple baseline immune parameters associated with excess mortality in 85 year-old non-institutionalized individuals over 2, 4 and 6-year follow-up. We dubbed this cluster the “Immune Risk Profile” (IRP) consisting of poor proliferative responses of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to T cell mitogens, accumulations of CD8+ CD28− T-cells resulting in an inverted CD4:8 ratio, decreased amounts of B-cells, and seropositivity for Cytomegalovirus (CMV). The concept of the IRP has since been applied by others to many different populations in different circumstances and at different ages, but in general without specifically establishing whether the same risk factors were relevant in the tested subjects. However, our own later studies showed that risk factors in aged populations from The Netherlands and Belgium were markedly different, indicating that the IRP cannot simply be transferred between populations. Moreover, there was a striking sex difference in the Belgian study, which was the only one large enough to include sufficient numbers of old men. The reasons for these marked differences between populations which one might have assumed a priori to be quite similar to one another are not clear, and many candidates can be speculated upon, but the important lesson is that there is a marked context-dependency of immune biomarkers of ageing, suggesting that IRPs cannot be assumed to be identical in different populations.


Immune risk profile Cytomegalovirus Immunosenescence 



The author’s own work was most recently supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG PA 361/22), the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF 16SV5536 K), the European Commission (FP7 LIP F2-2011-259679, IDEAL), and an unrestricted educational grant from the Croeni Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Second Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Health Sciences North Research Institute of CanadaSudburyCanada

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