Genes increase the risk of narcolepsy after Pandemrix vaccination

Published: 2019-02-04


Genetic factors may increase the risk of severe unusual side-effects from the influenza vaccine Pandemrix. This was found in a recent study by the national project Swedegene, a collaboration between Uppsala University, Karolinska Institutet and the Swedish Medical Products Agency that study severe adverse reactions, with narcolepsy being one of them. The National Genomics Infrastructure (NGI) at SciLifeLab has contributed with technology to the project, led by Mia Wadelius (Uppsala University/SciLifeLab).

The highest overall vaccine coverage was obtained in Finland, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden. In Sweden, 61% (5.8 million) of the inhabitants were vaccinated with Pandemrix in a nation-wide campaign. One year after the vaccination campaign an increased narcolepsy incidence of up to 15 per 100,000 persons a year was reported in Sweden and Finland, compared to the previously reported incidence of 1 per 100,000 a year. The study from Swedegene show that several genes increase the risk of developing narcolepsy after vaccination with Pandemrix.

“We found a clear connection between Pandemrix-narcolepsy and variations in the gene GDNF-AS1“, says chief physician and Professor Mia Wadelius in a press release by Uppsala University.

For more information, read the study in its entirety in EBioMedicine or the press release (in Swedish).