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Take the Right Shots for Lupus! August 15, 2019 While August is when we savor the last weeks of summer, it is also the time to look ahead and prepare for fall. In recognition of National Immunization Month, our Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Teodora Staeva provides background on vaccines and relays government recommendations for which are safe for people with lupus. “Vaccines help to develop immunity, in other words protect against disease, by imitating an infection,” notes Dr. Staeva. “Most vaccines contain small amounts of the germs (or parts of them) that cause disease but are either killed or weakened. The vaccine prompts the immune system to produce T cells and antibodies against these germs, and thus allows the body to learn how to fight these microbes in the future. However, several rounds of vaccination are often required to achieve optimal protection.” Currently there are four main types of vaccines. Live-attenuated vaccines use the weakened (attenuated) form of the virus so that it does not cause serious illness in individuals with healthy immune systems. Vaccines with live viruses are generally NOT recommended for people with lupus. Inactivated vaccines are made by killing the germ while making the vaccine. These are considered safe and effective for people with lupus. Subunit or purified antigen vaccines use only specific pieces of the germ. Thus, they give a very robust immune response targeted to key portions of the microbe. Generally, these vaccines can be used widely, including on people with weakened immune systems. Toxoid vaccines use a toxin (harmful product) made by the germ that causes a disease. They create immunity to the parts of the germ that cause a disease instead of the germ itself. That means the immune response is targeted to the toxin instead of the whole germ. “People with lupus are at greater risk for infections due to immunosuppression, so vaccines are very important,” noted Dr. Staeva. “But speak to your doctor before getting any vaccine to determine which are right for you and when.” _________________________________________________________________________ Recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Office of Women’s Health: People with lupus typically can get the following vaccines that do not contain live viruses: The flu shot (not nasal spray which contains a live form of the flu virus) Pneumonia vaccine Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Td/Tdap) vaccine Vaccines with live viruses that may not be safe for people with lupus, include: Nasal spray vaccine for the flu Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine Herpes Zoster (Shingles) vaccine Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine Live typhoid vaccine (oral) Sources: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Women’s Health https://www.lupusresearch.org/take-the-right-shots-for-lupus/
Managing Infections for Lupus Patients - Highlights from Dr. Curran's Presentation On August 9, 2012, the LSI hosted an educational teleconference “Managing and Preventing Infections for Lupus Patients” presented by Dr. James Curran. The event included a presentation by Dr. Curran followed by Q&A from the callers. The article below is based on information obtained from the teleconference. The entire transcript will be available online in the next few weeks. The second leading cause of death in SLE is infection – making managing and preventing infections a top priority for lupus patients. Lupus patients are at greater risk for many reasons; most are on immunosuppressive therapy at one point or another, pathogen exposure at office visits and lupus itself causes a dysfunction of the normal immune response to name a few. Treatments may also contribute to the high infection rate. The new biologic medications (rituximab, orencia and Benlysta) can increase the risk of infection. Corticosteroids, including prednisone, increase the risk of infection. The higher the dose of corticosteroids you’re on, the longer you’re on the dose, the greater the risk of infection. The incidence of infections in lupus patients – especially life-threatening infections – appears to be highest in the first five years of the disease. One reason for this might be that in the first five years, patients are undergoing treatment that is modifying their immune response. Infections lupus patients should be mindful of include bacterial, viral and fungal. Some common threats to lupus are pneumococcal pneumonia or streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza and staphylococcus aureus. Lupus patients have a predilection towards salmonella which in lupus patients frequently causes osteomyelitis or bone infections. Shingles is more common in lupus patients than the general public. Yeast infections are also common in lupus patients. Other non-hospitalized infections include respiratory tract infection, sinusitis, urinary tract infections and skin infections. Usually with aggressive treatment and early diagnosis, these infections do not require hospitalization. What can you do to protect yourself again getting an infection? First, non-live vaccines are recommended. That would include the flu shot (NOT the flu vaccine administered through the nasal passages), Pneumococcal vaccine every 5-10 years, a Bordetella pertussis booster, Hepatitis B (for healthcare workers) and meningococcal to name a few. If you are on a biologic, be aware that the biologic medicine may impair the normal response to a vaccine. If you have lupus, you should be vaccinated before you use any biologic and before taking major immunosuppressant medications. Plaquenil, hydroxychloroquine, decreases the risk of infections. A 2009 study showed that individuals on Plaquenil are 16 times less likely to get a major infection when taking the drug – regardless of whether or not corticosteroids are also taken. So, patients on corticosteroids and Plaquenil had fewer infections than patients on steroids alone. Other things you can do to manage infections are to be sure to get treated with antibiotics if you are sick. Be sure to use bactericidal drugs – drugs that kill the bacteria instead of freeze it. Lupus patient’s immune system needs to kill the bacteria. In conclusion, remember vaccinations are very important – avoid live viruses. Plaquenil reduces risk of infection. Limit your exposure to infection.