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Wed Jul 30, 2014, 05:43 PM

Key narcolepsy–influenza vaccine findings retracted


"Since swine flu swept the globe in 2009, scientists have scrambled to determine why a small percentage of children in Europe who received the flu vaccine Pandemrix developed narcolepsy, an incurable brain disorder that causes irresistible sleepiness. This week, a promising explanation was dealt a setback when prominent sleep scientist Emmanuel Mignot of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and colleagues retracted their influential study reporting a potential link between the H1N1 virus used to make the vaccine and narcolepsy.

Some researchers were taken aback. “This was one of the most important pieces of work on narcolepsy that has come out,” says neuroimmunologist Lawrence Steinman, a close friend and colleague of Mignot’s, who is also at Stanford. The retraction, announced in Science Translational Medicine (STM), “really caught me by surprise,” he says. Others say that journal editors should have detected problems with the study’s methodology.

The work provided the first substantiation of an autoimmune mechanism for narcolepsy, which could explain the Pandemrix side effect, researchers say. The vaccine, used only in Europe, seems to have triggered the disease in roughly one out of 15,000 children who received it. The affected children carried a gene variant for a particular human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type—a molecule that presents foreign proteins to immune cells—considered necessary for developing narcolepsy.

In the 18 December 2013 issue of STM, Mignot and colleagues reported that T cells from people with narcolepsy, but not from healthy controls, are primed to attack by hypocretin, a hormone that regulates wakefulness. They also showed molecular similarities between fragments of the H1N1 virus and the hypocretin molecule and suggested that these fragments might fool the immune system into attacking hypocretin-producing cells.


Perhaps of interest...

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Reply Key narcolepsy–influenza vaccine findings retracted (Original post)
HuckleB Jul 2014 OP
hedgehog Jul 2014 #1

Response to HuckleB (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 10:32 AM

1. An excellent example of real science in action -

I suspect that there is a connection to be found here eventually. I had not heard of this before, and it reminds me of the victims of Encephalitis lethargica following the 1918 flu epidemic. (Awakenings - Oliver Sacks).

If the virus is found to somehow trigger this reaction, it may be that the immunizations prevented many more cases than they caused. In any event, the research may lead into insights and treatments for many other autoimmune conditions.

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