McMaster University

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[View previous project related to infection and aging]

Approximately a third of deaths in the elderly (>65 yrs) occur due to infectious disease. Infections like pneumonia often occur after a period of immobility or a hospital stay (e.g. a hip fracture) and mark the start of a decline in health and independence. Preventing respiratory infections would provide the elderly more years of independence, improve their quality of life, and reduce the cost of care.

Establishing age-related chronic inflammation as a modifiable risk factor for poor immune function in the elderly

Chris Verschoor and Dawn Bowdish
From left: Chris Verschoor and Dawn Bowdish


Dawn Bowdish, Chris Verschoor, Mark Loeb, Guillaume Parè, Alexandra Papaioannou and Jonathan Bramson


Age-associated decline in immune function contributes to three major causes of declining health in the elderly:

  • Chronic inflammatory conditions (e.g. cardiovascular disease, dementia, and others)
  • Infectious disease
  • Frailty

Recent data from our laboratory demonstrates that inflammation, which increases with age, is a major driver of declining immune function and reducing inflammation improves some elements of immunity. 

This project will:

  • Determine whether levels of circulating inflammatory markers are associated with the ability to respond to vaccination as a measure of immune function
  • Discover whether increases in inflammation are associated with epigenetic modifications to inflammatory genes.
  • Determine whether low levels of vitamin D are a modifiable risk factor for poor immune function.