on July 1st, 2015 1 Comment
Back in 2001, in the wacko cinematic tour de farce “Rat Race,” British actor Rowan Atkinson – a.k.a. the iconic “Mr. Bean” – put a humorous face on narcolepsy, a rare, chronic, incurable and lifelong sleep disorder that can strike at any time, even in the heat of a foot race.
In 2009, narcolepsy suddenly became, for a time, not quite so rare.
The swine flu pandemic sweeping the world that year was no joke. In the United States alone, the H1N1 strain of influenza virus responsible for that pandemic resulted in 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths, as mentioned in our news release on a just-published study in Science Translational Medicine.
There probably would have been far more hospitalizations and deaths had not several vaccines tailored to that particular influenza strain been rushed to the market. Two vaccines in particular — Focetria, manufactured by Novartis, and Pandemrix, made by GlaxoSmithKline — are credited with saving a lot of lives in Europe. But there was a dark side. As our news release notes:
Populations that had been immunized with GlaxoSmithKline’s Pandemrix vaccine showed an increase in narcolepsy, but those immunized with Novartis’ Focetria did not.
That’s not news; it’s been known for some time. But the findings in the new study, whose senior author is Stanford neuroimmunologist Larry Steinman, MD, may explain why.