An adjuvant (from Latin, adiuvare: to aid) is a pharmacological or immunological agent that modifies the effect of other agents, such as a drug or vaccine, while having few if any direct effects when given by itself. They are often included in vaccines to enhance the recipient's immune response to a supplied antigen, while keeping the injected foreign material to a minimum.
Immunologic adjuvants are added to vaccines to stimulate the immune system's response to the target antigen, but do not in themselves confer immunity. Adjuvants can act in various ways in presenting an antigen to the immune system. Adjuvants can act as a depot for the antigen, presenting the antigen over a long period of time, thus maximizing the immune response before the body clears the antigen. Examples of depot type adjuvants are oil emulsions. Adjuvants can also act as an irritant which causes the body to recruit and amplify its immune response. A tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine, for example, contains minute quantities of toxins produced by each of the target bacteria, but also contains some aluminum hydroxide. Such aluminum salts are common adjuvants in vaccines sold in the United States and have been used in vaccines for over 70 years. The body's immune system develops an antitoxin to the bacteria's toxins, not to the aluminum, but would not respond enough without the help of the aluminum adjuvant.
Adjuvants as stabilizing agents
Although immunological adjuvants have traditionally been viewed as substances that aid the immune response to antigen, adjuvants have also evolved as substances that can aid in stabilizing formulations of antigens, especially for vaccines administered for animal health.
- Adjuvant care
- Agricultural spray adjuvant
- Combination therapy
- Freund's adjuvant
- Immunologic adjuvant
- Inactivated vaccine
- Pharmaceutic adjuvant
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