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Bacterial capsular polysaccharides are important vaccine immunogens. However, the study of polysaccharide-specific immune responses has been hindered by technical restrictions. Here, we developed and validated a high-throughput method to analyse antigen-specific B cells using combinatorial staining with fluorescently-labelled capsular polysaccharide multimers. Concurrent staining of 25 cellular markers further enables the in-depth characterization of polysaccharide-specific cells. We used this assay to simultaneously analyse 14 Streptococcus pneumoniae or 5 Streptococcus agalactiae serotype-specific B cell populations. The phenotype of polysaccharide-specific B cells was associated with serotype specificity, vaccination history and donor population. For example, we observed a link between non-class switched (IgM+) memory B cells and vaccine-inefficient S. pneumoniae serotypes 1 and 3. Moreover, B cells had increased activation in donors from South Africa, which has high-incidence of S. agalactiae invasive disease, compared to Dutch donors. This assay allows for the characterization of heterogeneity in B cell immunity that may underlie immunization efficacy.

Original publication




Journal article


Commun Biol

Publication Date





Flow Cytometry, Immunization, Polysaccharides, Bacterial, Immunity, Vaccines