This is one instance of a disorder being identified as an autoimmune disorder resulting from antibodies attacking the brain. With autism, depression, MS, Parkinson’s, PANDAS - all linked to brain inflammation and with the new link between lymphatic and CNS established, it will be interesting to see what will be learned next…
Scientists appear close to pinpointing why a swine flu vaccine given to six million people in Britain triggered the devastating sleep disorder, narcolepsy, in rare cases.
The Pandemrix vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and which was recommended by the UK government to high-risk groups during the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic, was withdrawn after medical records showed a spike in the number of cases of narcolepsy presenting in doctors’ surgeries.
But until now it has not been clear why the jab caused the chronic illness, which involves uncontrollable daytime sleepiness, in around one in 55,000 recipients.
The latest study suggests that in rare cases, Pandemrix led to patients producing antibodies that attacked and destroyed a critical hub of brain cells that help regulate tiredness.
Dr Sohail Ahmed, global head of clinical sciences at Novartis Vaccines and first author of the study, said: “There’s a lot of evidence now to suggest that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease. In our study, we found antibodies that could cross-react to both the flu protein produced by the vaccine and receptors on the neurons.”
British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which made the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine.
Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images