People with advanced age have a higher susceptibility to infections and exhibit increased mortality and morbidity as the ability of the immune system to combat infections decreases with age. While innate immune cells display functional defects such as decreased phagocytosis, chemotaxis and cytokine production, adaptive immune cells exhibit reduced receptor diversity, defective antibody production and a sharp decline in naive cell populations. Successful responses to vaccination in the elderly are critical to prevent common infections such as influenza and pneumonia, but vaccine efficacy decreases in older individuals compared with young adults. Trained immunity is a newly emerging concept that showed that innate immune cells possess non-specific immunological memory established through epigenetic and metabolic reprogramming upon encountering certain pathogenic stimuli. Clinical studies suggest that trained immunity can be utilized to enhance immune responses against infections and improve the efficiency of vaccinations in adults; however, how trained immunity responses are shaped with advanced age is still an open question. In this review, we provide an overview of the age-related changes in the immune system with a focus on innate immunity, discuss current vaccination strategies for the elderly, present the concept of trained immunity and propose it as a novel approach to enhance responses against infections and vaccinations in the elderly population.
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