Aluminium Adjuvants – A Nanomaterial used as Adjuvants in Human Vaccines for Decades

Ravi Danielsson, Tove Sandberg, Håkan Eriksson*
Department of Biomedical Science, Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University, SE-205 06 Malmö, Sweden

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© 2018 Danielsson et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biomedical Science, Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University, SE-205 06 Malmö, Sweden, Tel: +46406657925; E-mail



Aluminium salts have been used for decades in vaccines as adjuvants to facilitate the adaptive immune response against co-administered antigens. Two types of aluminium adjuvant are mostly used, aluminium oxyhydroxide and aluminium hydroxyphosphate. Both types of aluminium adjuvant consist of nanoparticles that form loose, micrometre sized aggregates at circumneutral pH.

Aluminium adjuvants constitute a well-documented example of administration of nanomaterials to humans with infrequent side effects and a safety record generally regarded as excellent. However, despite its prolonged use in human and veterinary medicine, the mechanisms behind the enhanced response and the immune stimulatory effect are still by and large unknown.


The present paper reviews existing ideas regarding the immunostimulatory effects of aluminium adjuvants, with a focus on the induction of an inflammatory response by cellular stress. Reviewed information was obtained from peer-reviewed scientific papers published in 1988 to date with one exception, a paper published 1931.


Cellular stress causes extra cellular signalling of Danger Associated Molecular Patterns (DAMPs) and upon phagocytosis of aluminium adjuvants the cells need to manage the ingested particles.


A persistent intracellular accumulation of aluminium adjuvants will be a solid depository of sparingly soluble aluminium salts maintaining a constant concentration of Al3+ ions in the cytoplasm and this will affect multiple biochemical processes. The cell will be under constant stress and DAMP signalling will occur and we would like to suggest the maintenance of a constant concentration Al3+ ions in the cytoplasm as a general underlying feature of the immune stimulation properties of aluminium adjuvants.

Keywords: Aluminium adjuvants, Cellular stress, DAMP, Vaccine, Immunostimulatory effects, Al3+ ions.