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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Levels of diphtheria and tetanus specific IgG of Portuguese adult women, before and after vaccination with adult type Td. Duration of immunity following vaccination

Guilherme Gonçalves12*, Maria Augusta Santos3, João Graça Frade4 and José Saraiva Cunha5

Author Affiliations

1 Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal

2 Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas de Abel Salazar, Universidade do Porto, Portugal

3 Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge, Delegação no Porto, Portugal

4 Centro de Saúde de Condeixa-a-Nova, Coimbra, Portugal

5 Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:109  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-109

Published: 12 June 2007



The need for tetanus toxoid decennial booster doses has been questioned by some experts. Several counter arguments have been presented, supporting the maintenance of decennial adult booster doses with tetanus and diphtheria toxoids (adult formulation of the vaccine: Td). This study aimed to evaluate the use of Td in Portuguese adult women under routine conditions. For that purpose we selected a group of women 30+ years of age to which vaccination was recommended. We intended to know if pre-vaccination antibody concentrations were associated with factors as age at first and last vaccination, number of doses and time since last revaccination. We also intended to assess the serological efficacy of Td booster.


Following the Portuguese guidelines 100 women were vaccinated with Td. Antitetanus toxin IgG (ATT IgG) and antidiphtheria toxin IgG (ADT IgG) levels were measured (mIU/ml) in 100 pre-vaccination and 91 post-vaccination sera. Detailed vaccination records were available from 88 participants.


Twenty-two women (Group A) began vaccination with DPT/DT in their early childhood and their pre-vaccination ATT IgG levels increased with the number of doses received (p = 0.022) and decreased with time since last vaccination (p = 0.016). Among the 66 women who began vaccination in adolescence and adulthood (Group B), with monovalent TT, ATT IgG levels decreased with age at first dose (p < 0.001) and with time since last vaccination (p = 0.041). In Group A, antidiphtheria toxin IgG kinetics was very similar to that observed for ATT IgG. Among women not vaccinated with diphtheria toxoid, ADT IgG levels decreased with age. Serological response to both components of Td was good but more pronounced for ATT IgG.


Our study suggests that, to protect against tetanus, there is no need to administer decennial boosters to the Portuguese adults who have complied with the childhood/adolescent schedule (6 doses of tetanus toxoid). The adult booster intervals could be wider, probably of 20 years. This also seems to apply to protection against diphtheria, but issues on the herd immunity and on the circulation of toxigenic strains need to be better understood.