Research News Aging & Seasons: Unveiling the Immune Landscape in the upper respiratory tract

19 February 2024

The upper respiratory tract is continuously exposed to microorganisms and harmful elements from the air that we breathe, prompting local immune responses, such as the secretion of immune markers. Some studies describe immune marker profiles in respiratory mucosal samples in selected groups of patients, however baseline mucosal immune profiles in the general population are lacking. Such profiles are essential to understand the impact of various exposures, including pathogens and pollutants, to the respiratory mucosal immune system.

In a recent publication in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers from the RIVM and Radboudumc (Laboratory of Medical Immunology) conducted a detailed exploration of upper respiratory mucosal immune profiles, shedding light on key factors that influence these profiles within the general population, in press since 23 December 2023. The study aimed to establish baseline profiles and examined variations in response to age, sex, seasonality, and various health and lifestyle factors among 951 individuals aged 0 to 86 years.

The concentrations of 35 immune markers in nasopharyngeal swab samples were measured. Subsequent clustering analysis revealed patterns reflecting immunological processes, including tissue regeneration and antiviral responses. This indicates that nasopharyngeal swabs can be used to investigate the connections between proteins in known and unknown (immune) pathways.

Furthermore, the study uncovered substantial age-related variations within the first 25 years of life and during the winter season, emphasizing the need for well-matched study populations in future research for both age and seasonality.

Demographic and lifestyle factors were also examined for their impact on mucosal immune landscapes. Sex, BMI, smoking, mild airway infection symptoms, and the pre-existing conditions chronic asthma and hay fever were identified as contributors to variations in immune marker concentrations. These data provide valuable insights into the complex interplay between the upper respiratory mucosal immune system and internal and external influences.

This dataset establishes an important baseline, offering insights into the respiratory mucosal immune landscapes across the general population, where future studies can build upon. Moreover, the study lays the groundwork for the development of mucosal immune-based diagnostics, promising practical applications in respiratory health.


In conclusion, the publication titled "Effect of age and season on respiratory mucosal immune marker profiles" advances our understanding of mucosal immune responses in the general population, providing a bridge between immunology and health-and-lifestyle factors.

Read the full article here

van Woudenbergh E, van Rooijen DM, Veldman-Wolf JJ, Nicolaie MA, Huynen MA, van der Klis FRM, de Jonge MI, den Hartog G. Effect of age and season on respiratory mucosal immune marker profiles. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2023 Dec 23:S0091-6749(23)02490-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2023.12.009. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38142822.

Related news items