Immunization Timing May Increase Type 1 Diabetes

The number of cases of type 1 diabetes occurring before age 15 might be greatly reduced by immunizing children with common pediatric vaccines at birth, rather than waiting until eight weeks of age, according to a new study from LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City and Classen Immunotherapies in Baltimore, Md.

Vaccines given at birth may possibly prevent children from being colonized with diabetes-inducing viruses from the mother by triggering the release of interferon and other immune system mediators in a newborn’s system, claim the study’s co-authors David C. Classen, MD, of LDS Hospital’s division of infectious disease and J. Barthelow Classen, MD, MBA, of Classen Immunotherapies.

Using epidemiological and statistical models developed at LDS Hospital, the researchers compiled and compared data on type 1 diabetes from European countries. They found evidence to support that children immunized for tuberculosis at birth (BCG vaccine) had their chance of developing type 1 diabetes by age 15 reduced by 33 percent. Analysis also showed an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes associated with administering the BCG vaccine at school age.

The researchers also found evidence that the risk of developing type 1 diabetes was higher when the hepatitis B and hemophilus B vaccines were administered after children were two months old.

These results, published in the October issue of Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practices, supports previous findings from animal studies (Autoimmunity, 1996, 24:137-145), that found an association between immunizing rodents at birth with common pediatric vaccines and a decreased risk of type 1 diabetes.

“Based on our epidemiological data and previous animal studies, there appears to be a very tight window in which conditions are ideal to administer the first dose of common vaccinations,” says David Classen. “The next step is to verify this hypothesis with a large clinical trial involving humans, either in the United States or abroad.”

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