Type 1 narcolepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy associated with the HLA allele DQB1*06:02. Genetic predisposition along with external triggering factors may drive autoimmune responses, ultimately leading to the selective loss of hypocretin-positive neurons.
The aim of this study was to investigate potential aetiological factors in Swedish cases of postvaccination (Pandemrix) narcolepsy defined by interferon-gamma (IFN?) production from immune cells in response to molecularly defined targets.
Cellular reactivity defined by IFN? production was examined in blood from 38 (HLA-DQB1*06:02(+) ) Pandemrix-vaccinated narcolepsy cases and 76 (23 HLA-DQB1*06:02(+) and 53 HLA-DQB1*06:02(-) ) control subjects, matched for age, sex and exposure, using a variety of different antigens: ?-haemolytic group A streptococcal (GAS) antigens (M5, M6 and streptodornase B), influenza (the pandemic A/H1N1/California/7/09 NYMC X-179A and A/H1N1/California/7/09 NYMC X-181 vaccine antigens, previous Flu-A and -B vaccine targets, A/H1N1/Brisbane/59/2007, A/H1N1/Solomon Islands/3/2006, A/H3N2/Uruguay/716/2007, A/H3N2/Wisconsin/67/2005, A/H5N1/Vietnam/1203/2004 and B/Malaysia/2506/2004), noninfluenza viral targets (CMVpp65, EBNA-1 and EBNA-3) and auto-antigens (hypocretin peptide, Tribbles homolog 2 peptide cocktail and extract from rat hypothalamus tissue).
IFN-? production was significantly increased in whole blood from narcolepsy cases in response to streptococcus serotype M6 (P?=?0.0065) and streptodornase B protein (P?=?0.0050). T-cell recognition of M6 and streptodornase B was confirmed at the single-cell level by intracellular cytokine (IL-2, IFN?, tumour necrosis factor-alpha and IL-17) production after stimulation with synthetic M6 or streptodornase B peptides. Significantly, higher (P?=?0.02) titres of serum antistreptolysin O were observed in narcolepsy cases, compared to vaccinated controls.
?-haemolytic GAS may be involved in triggering autoimmune responses in patients who developed narcolepsy symptoms after vaccination with Pandemrix in Sweden, characterized by a Streptococcus pyogenes M-type-specific IFN-? cellular immune response.