Pneumococcal antibody responses in elite swimmers

M. Gleeson, D. B. Pyne, W. A. Mcdonald, R. L. Clancy, A. W. Cripps, P. L. Horn, P. A. Fricker

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    The ability of elite swimmers to mount an antibody response to the pneumococcal vaccine, Pneumovax 23, was assessed at the end of an intensive 12-week training programme. Antibody titres to six pneumococcal polysaccharide types were measured in 20 elite swimmers (10 male, 10 female) aged 17-23 years and 19 sedentary age- and sex-matched students (eight male, 11 female) aged 18-23 years. Blood samples were tested 14 days apart to assess the magnitude of the antibody response and changes in serum immunoglobulin isotypes and IgG subclasses. There were no significant differences in any of the pneumococcal antibody responses to the Pneumovax between swimmers and controls, and no gender effect, either before or after vaccination. The clinically adequate response to the vaccine was greatest for the pneumococcal serotype 4, which was 97% for the total study population. There were no significant correlations between the magnitude of any of the pneumococcal antibody responses and (i) changes in the scores for the swimmers' international performance; (ii) infection rates in either swimmers or controls; (iii) any psychological variables, assessed by the Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire for either swimmers or controls. Swimmers had significantly lower concentrations of serum IgG2 (P = 0.04) and IgG3 (P = 0.002) before pneumococcal vaccination. The swimmers had an increase in all immunoglobulin isotypes and IgG subclasses post-vaccination, suggesting a polyclonal response to the vaccine that was not observed in control subjects. The magnitude of the subclass responses after vaccination was significantly greater in swimmers compared with controls for IgG1 (P = 0.04), IgG3 (P = 0.04) and IgG4 (P = 0.01). The data indicated that elite swimmers undertaking an intensive training programme were capable of mounting an antibody response to pneumococcal antigens equivalent to that of age- and sex-matched sedentary control subjects, despite the swimmers having lower prevaccination levels of serum immunoglobulins.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)238-244
    Number of pages7
    JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


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