Enhanced Humoral Immune Response After COVID-19 Vaccination in Elderly Kidney Transplant Recipients on Everolimus Versus Mycophenolate Mofetil–containing Immunosuppressive Regimens
Elderly kidney transplant recipients (KTRs) represent almost one third of the total kidney transplant population. These patients have a very high coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)–related mortality, whereas their response to COVID-19 vaccination is impaired. Finding ways to improve the COVID-19 vaccination response in this vulnerable population is of uttermost importance.
In the OPTIMIZE trial, we randomly assign elderly KTRs to an immunosuppressive regimen with standard-exposure calcineurin inhibitor (CNI), mycophenolate mofetil, and prednisolone or an adapted regimen with low dose CNI, everolimus, and prednisolone. In this substudy, we measured the humoral response after 2 (N = 32) and 3 (N = 22) COVID-19 mRNA vaccinations and the cellular response (N = 15) after 2 vaccinations.
The seroconversion rates of elderly KTRs on a standard immunosuppressive regimen were only 13% and 38% after 2 and 3 vaccinations, respectively, whereas the response rates of KTRs on the everolimus regimen were significantly higher at 56% (P = 0.009) and 100% (P = 0.006). Levels of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaVirus 2 IgG antibodies were significantly higher at both time points in the everolimus group (P = 0.004 and P < 0.001). There were no differences in cellular response after vaccination.
An immunosuppressive regimen without mycophenolate mofetil, a lower CNI dose, and usage of everolimus is associated with a higher humoral response rate after COVID-19 vaccination in elderly KTRs after transplantation. This encouraging finding should be investigated in larger cohorts, including transplant recipients of all ages.