Prolongation of life expectancy in the 20th century has been one of the humanity’s greatest triumphs. This significant increase of life length however raises the crucial issue of healthy aging. Infectious diseases in the elderly clearly contribute to morbidity in this particularly vulnerable population. Therefore, preventing infectious diseases is one of the necessary steps toward healthy aging. However, given the characteristics of the immune responsiveness of the elderly, vaccines and immunization strategies tailored for this particular population are needed and should be developed.
These issues were reviewed and discussed during two meetings organized by the Mérieux Foundation in Siena in September 2009 and April 2012. During these meetings, the various bases for immune senescence were reviewed and the possibilities of counteracting this waning of immune responsiveness and restoring immunocompetence in the elderly were discussed. In addition, examples of diseases that should be targeted by vaccination in the senior population were considered.
Thus, inasmuch as aging represents one of the main problems of the 21st century, vaccines specifically directed to the elderly become a public health priority both in developed and in developing countries. Within this context, the Mérieux Foundation is organizing this third meeting on « Aging and Immunity » with the objectives to review the progress made during the last 3 and ½ years. During this meeting, particular attention will be given to discuss the advancement made in relation to several issues raised and considered as high priority for further research efforts by participants to the 2009 and 2012 workshops.