Emerging from vague familiarity into the spotlight as the only route out of the pandemic, vaccines have become an everyday topic of conversation. Most of us now understand the principle of vaccination: our immune system is presented with a part of a pathogen and instructed to create a lasting immune response to it, safeguarding us against future infection. But few people know about vaccine ingredients that can be essential for inducing a potent immune response: adjuvants.
Named from the Latin “adiuvare” meaning “to help”, adjuvants have been lending a helping hand to vaccinologists for many decades. Yet a lack of a clear understanding of how they work has tainted their reputation, leading to epithets such as “alchemy” and “the immunologist’s dirty secret”.
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