Efficacy and safety of immunological adjuvants. Where is the cut-off?
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Research over the past several decades has provided insight into the mode of action of adjuvants. However, the main focus of attention has been the efficacy in the induction of protective immunogenicity, while less effort has been devoted to the study of toxicity mechanisms. Evidences suggest that several mechanisms that are responsible for the immunostimulating effects are, at the same time, responsible of the adverse effects. In this context, it is often very difficult to establish the boundaries between immunostimulation and immunotoxicity to reach the ideal balance of efficacy/safety. During decades, hundreds of adjuvants and adjuvant formulations have been proposed as immunostimulants for vaccines but very few have been used in human vaccines due to toxicity concerns. In this review, relevant aspects about immunotoxicology of adjuvants, based on clinical and experimental studies are discussed. Some effects are only observed under hyperstimulating regimens using non-approved adjuvants for human use, but these are nonetheless useful to understanding basic principles of adjuvant toxicity. The acute local and systemic reactions, during the first hours and those that can be observed after the third day of vaccination in the inoculation site and systemically are discussed.