Background. The conserved, immuno-subdominant influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) stalk region is a potential universal group-specific influenza virus vaccine epitope. We analyzed antibody responses to H1 hemagglutinin stalk domain (H1/stalk) following trivalent influenza inactivated vaccine (IIV3) immunization in pregnant women, and association with protection against influenza virus illness. Methods. One hundred forty-five human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-uninfected pregnant women (68 IIV3 and 77 placebo recipients) and 140 pregnant women with HIV infection (72 IIV3 and 68 placebo recipients) were independently randomized in placebo-controlled efficacy trials of IIV3. Plasma samples were tested for H1/stalk immunoglobulin G (IgG) and hemagglutination inhibition (HAI) antibodies prevaccination and 1 month postvaccination. Women had weekly surveillance for influenza illness, confirmed by polymerase chain reaction. Results. Increases in H1/stalk IgG (and HAI) antibody levels were elicited post-IIV3, with responses being higher in HIVuninfected women than in women living with HIV. Among HIV-uninfected vaccinees, there was no correlation (postvaccination) between H1/stalk and HAI antibody responses, whereas a strong correlation was observed in vaccinees with HIV. The H1/stalk IgG concentration was lower among women developing A/H1N1 illness (85.3 arbitrary units [AU]/mL) than those without A/H1N1 illness (219.6 AU/mL; P = .001). H1/stalk IgG concentration ≥215 AU/mL was associated with 90% lower odds (odds ratio, 0.09; P = .005) of A/H1N1 illness. Also, H1/stalk IgG was significantly lower among women with influenza B illness (93.9 AU/mL) than among their counterparts (215.5 AU/mL) (P = .04); however, no association was observed after adjusting for HAI titers. Conclusions. H1/stalk IgG concentration was associated with lower odds for A/H1N1 influenza virus illness, indicating its potential as an epitope for a universal vaccine against group 1 influenza virus.
- Stalk antibody