Hep B vaccination trebles multiple sclerosis risk
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Hep B vaccination trebles multiple sclerosis risk

Nursing Times Online Clinical News/September 9, 2004

Immunisation with the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine trebles the risk of developing multiple sclerosis according to new US research based on UK statistics.

The vaccination is offered to British nurses by NHS employers in case of needlestick injuries and evidence of immunisation is required by some nursing agencies.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a nested case-control study, published in Neurology ,  using the General Practice Research Database in the UK.

One hundred sixty-three patients who had been included in the database for at least 3 years prior to their first symptom (index date) were diagnosed with MS between 1993 and 2000.

The 1,604 control subjects were matched by age, gender, and time of database entry.

Eleven (6.7%) MS patients were vaccinated in the 3 years before the index date,
compared with 39 (2.4%) of control subjects.

The authors estimate that HBV immunization was associated with a 3-fold increase in incidence of MS within the next 3 years.

'These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that immunization with the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine is associated with an increased risk of MS, and challenge the idea that the relation between hepatitis B vaccination and risk of MS is well understood,' say the authors.

But they add the benefits of immunisation outweigh the risks.

'Any decision concerning hepatitis B vaccination needs to take into account the large benefits derived from the prevention of a common and potentially lethal infection,' they conclude

In related editorial, Robert T. Naismith and Anne H. Cross from Washington University say the findings do not conclusively prove a link between hepatitis B vaccination and MS.

'This article should be viewed as another piece of the puzzle of MS causation, but the data presented do not provide proof of an association sufficient to implement policy changes with regard to immunization programs,' they say.

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