Vaccination History, Body Mass Index, Age, and Baseline Gene Expression Predict Influenza Vaccination Outcomes

Christian V. Forst, Matthew Chung, Megan Hockman, Lauren Lashua, Emily Adney, Angela Hickey, Michael Carlock, Ted Ross, Elodie Ghedin, David Gresham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Seasonal influenza is a primary public health burden in the USA and globally. Annual vaccination programs are designed on the basis of circulating influenza viral strains. However, the effectiveness of the seasonal influenza vaccine is highly variable between seasons and among individuals. A number of factors are known to influence vaccination effectiveness including age, sex, and comorbidities. Here, we sought to determine whether whole blood gene expression profiling prior to vaccination is informative about pre-existing immunological status and the immunological response to vaccine. We performed whole transcriptome analysis using RNA sequencing (RNAseq) of whole blood samples obtained prior to vaccination from 275 participants enrolled in an annual influenza vaccine trial. Serological status prior to vaccination and 28 days following vaccination was assessed using the hemagglutination inhibition assay (HAI) to define baseline immune status and the response to vaccination. We find evidence that genes with immunological functions are increased in expression in individuals with higher pre-existing immunity and in those individuals who mount a greater response to vaccination. Using a random forest model, we find that this set of genes can be used to predict vaccine response with a performance similar to a model that incorporates physiological and prior vaccination status alone. A model using both gene expression and physiological factors has the greatest predictive power demonstrating the potential utility of molecular profiling for enhancing prediction of vaccine response. Moreover, expression of genes that are associated with enhanced vaccination response may point to additional biological pathways that contribute to mounting a robust immunological response to the seasonal influenza vaccine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2446
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • gene expression
  • influenza
  • random forest
  • vaccine response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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