Vaccines, adjuvants and autoimmunity

Authors: Luísa Eça Guimarãesa, Britain Bakera, Carlo Perriconeb, Yehuda Shoenfelda,c 


Vaccines and autoimmunity are linked fields. Vaccine efficacy is based on whether host immune response against an antigen can elicit a memory T-cell response over time. Although the described side effects thus far have been mostly transient and acute, vaccines are able to elicit the immune system towards an autoimmune reaction. The diagnosis of a definite autoimmune disease and the occurrence of fatal outcome post-vaccination have been less frequently reported. Since vaccines are given to previously healthy hosts, who may have never developed the disease had they not been immunized, adverse events should be carefully accessed and evaluated even if they represent a limited number of occurrences.

In this review of the literature, there is evidence of vaccine-induced autoimmunity and adjuvant-induced autoimmunity in both experimental models as well as human patients. Adjuvants and infectious agents may exert their immune-enhancing effects through various functional activities, encompassed by the adjuvant effect. These mechanisms are shared by different conditions triggered by adjuvants leading to the autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA syndrome).

In conclusion, there are several case reports of autoimmune diseases following vaccines, however, due to the limited number of cases, the different classifications of symptoms and the long latency period of the diseases, every attempt for an epidemiological study has so far failed to deliver a connection. Despite this, efforts to unveil the connection between the triggering of the immune system by adjuvants and the development of autoimmune conditions should be undertaken. Vaccinomics is a field that may bring to light novel customized, personalized treatment approaches in the future.

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