Persistence of immune memory in humans is a crucial yet poorly understood aspect of immunology. Here we have studied the effect of Puumala hantavirus infection on unrelated, pre-existing immune memory by studying T cell- and antibody responses against toxoid vaccine antigens of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis in a cohort of 45 patients. We found that tetanus- and pertussis -specific IgG concentrations elevate during acute Puumala virus infection. Increase in vaccine IgG was associated with proliferation of heterologous T cells. Interestingly, increases in tetanus-specific IgG persisted a year after the infection while pertussis-specific IgG declined rapidly; a difference in IgG kinetics resembling the difference seen after vaccination against tetanus and pertussis. These results suggest that persistence of immune memory is facilitated by heterologous boosting of old memory during memory formation against newly encountered antigens. They also show that different toxoid antigens may be treated differently. Our study gives new insight into how immune memory formation may alter pre-existing immune memory, and also shows that heterologous immunity may have an impact on vaccination outcomes.
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