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Swine Flu Vaccine Linked to Widespread Increase in Narcolepsy Cases


A swine flu vaccination manufactured by Britian's GlaxoSmithKline in 2009 appears to be contributing to widespread cases of narcolepsy across Europe, reports Reuters.

Pandemrix H1N1 was distributed to more than 30 million people in nearly 50 countries between 2009 and 2010 as fears over the swine flu pandemic mounted. And, according to Stanford University's Emmanuel Mignot, one of the world's leading experts on sleep disorders including narcolepsy, the evidence is pointing in one direction. Mignot told Reuters, "There's no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Pandemrix increased the occurrence of narcolepsy onset in children in some countries—and probably in most countries."

Nearly 800 cases of narcolepsy have been reported in Europe since receiving the swine flu vaccine. And, says Reuters, "Independent teams of scientists have published peer-reviewed studies from Sweden, Finland and Ireland showing the risk of developing narcolepsy after the 2009-2010 immunization campaign was between seven and 13 times higher for children who had Pandemrix than for their unvaccinated peers."

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According to Reuters, narcolepsy can include bouts of daytime sleepiness, nightmares, hallucinations and cataplexy—a strong emotional response that can trigger sudden loss of muscle strength.

The drug was not approved for use in the U.S. because it contained an adjuvant booster, which may also be the cause for the cases of narcolepsy rising throughout Europe. The adjuvant, called AS03, may have triggered the narcolepsy in individuals susceptible to a certain gene variant.

GlaxoSmithKline is funding research into the matter, including a study in Canada where a vaccine similar to Pandemrix (Arepanrix) was used during the same time period.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: @alviseni

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