Immunity to tetanus and diphtheria in the UK in 2009

Karen S. Wagner*, Joanne White, Nicholas Andrews, Raymond Borrow, Elaine Stanford, Emma Newton, Richard Pebody

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: This study aimed to estimate the immunity of the UK population to tetanus and diphtheria, including the potential impact of new glycoconjugatate vaccines, and the addition of diphtheria to the school leaver booster in 1994. Methods: Residual sera (n=. 2697) collected in England in 2009/10 were selected from 18 age groups and tested for tetanus and diphtheria antibody. Results were standardised by testing a panel of sera (n=. 150) to enable comparison with a previously (1996) published serosurvey. Data were then standardised to the UK population. Results: In 2009, 83% of the UK population were protected (≥0.1. IU/mL) against tetanus compared to 76% in 1996 (p=. 0.079), and 75% had at least basic protection against diphtheria (≥0.01. IU/mL) in 2009 compared to 60% in 1996 (p<. 0.001). Higher antibody levels were observed in those aged 1-3 years in 2009 compared to 1996 for both tetanus and diphtheria. Higher diphtheria immunity was observed in those aged 16-34 years in 2009 compared to 1996 (geometric mean concentration [GMC] 0.15. IU/mL vs. 0.03. IU/mL, p<. 0.001). Age groups with the largest proportion of susceptible individuals to both tetanus and diphtheria in 2009 were <1 year old (>29% susceptible), 45-69 years (>20% susceptible) and 70+ years (>32% susceptible). Low immunity was observed in those aged 10-11 years (>19% susceptible), between the scheduled preschool and school leaver booster administration. Discussion: The current schedule appears to induce protective levels; increases in the proportions protected/GMCs were observed for the ages receiving vaccinations according to UK policy. Glycoconjugate vaccines appear to have increased immunity, in particular for diphtheria, in preschool age groups. Diphtheria immunity in teenagers and young adults has increased as a result of the addition of diphtheria to the school leaver booster. However, currently older adults remain susceptible, without any further opportunities for immunisations planned according to the present schedule.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7111-7117
Number of pages7
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2012


  • Diphtheria
  • Glycoconjugate
  • Immunity
  • Seroprevalence
  • Tetanus
  • Vaccine


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