Common Pain Relievers May Dilute Power of Flu Shots

Nov 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- With flu vaccination season in full swing, research from the University of Rochester Medical Center cautions that use of many common pain killers - Advil, Tylenol, aspirin - at the time of injection may blunt the effect of the shot and have a negative effect on the immune system.

Richard P. Phipps, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and of Pediatrics, has been studying this issue for years and recently presented his latest findings to an international conference on inflammatory diseases.

“What we’ve been saying all along, and continue to stress, is that it’s probably not a good idea to take common, over-the-counter pain relievers for minor discomfort associated with vaccination,” Phipps said. “We have studied this question using virus particles, live virus, and different kinds of pain relievers, in human blood samples and in mice -- and all of our research shows that pain relievers interfere with the effect of the vaccine.”

A study by researchers in the Czech Republic reported similar findings in the Oct. 17, 2009, edition of The Lancet. They found that giving acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, to infants weakens the immune response to vaccines.

Phipps’ research has tested whether production of antibodies using a cell culture system was blunted by over-the-counter pain relievers. He found that a variety of pain relievers - even though Tylenol and Advil have different ingredients -- seemed to dilute the production of necessary antibodies to protect against illness.

Many of the pain relievers in question are classified as NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which act in part by blocking the cyclooxygenase-2 (cox-2) enzyme. Blocking the cox-2 enzyme is not a good idea in the context of vaccination, however, because the cox-2 enzyme is necessary for the optimal production of B-lymphocytes.

Therefore, when a person takes a medication to reduce pain and fever, he or she might also inadvertently reduce the ability of B cells to make antibodies.

Phipps and colleagues also demonstrated that timing of the administration of pain relievers is important as well, according to the study published earlier this year in the journal Cellular Immunology.

They exposed human cells and mice to ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin and naproxen (Aleve) in amounts comparable to doses commonly used by millions of Americans every day to prevent or treat pain and fever, or arthritis, or to prevent heart attack and stroke.

Treatment during the earliest stages of inflammation - or when the first signs of pain, swelling, redness or fever would occur - had the most detrimental effects on the immune system, the study noted.

The connection between NSAIDs and antibody production is still being actively pursued. Phipps said researchers believe ibuprofen, in particular, affects lymphocytes’ ability to produce antibodies.

Meanwhile, until a full clinical trial provides a clearer picture, Phipps urges regular users of NSAIDs to be aware of the risks.

“NSAIDs are one of the most commonly used drugs; they are recommended for all age categories, are prescribed for relieving transient pain or in cases of serious inflammatory diseases,” Phipps said. “By decreasing antibody synthesis, NSAIDs also have the ability to weaken the which can have serious consequences for children, the elderly and the immune-compromised patients.”

Provided by University of Rochester (news : web)

Explore further: New treatment approved for rare form of hemophilia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Painkillers may threaten power of vaccines

Nov 28, 2006

With flu-shot season in full swing and widespread anticipation of the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, a new University of Rochester study suggests that using common painkillers around the time of vaccination might ...

Ibuprofen puts high risk cardiac patients at risk

Apr 05, 2007

Doctors who treat the painful condition of osteoarthritis in patients with increased cardiovascular risk need to be cautious. A team lead by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, are the first to study outcomes in ...

Recommended for you

WHO: Millions of Ebola vaccine doses ready in 2015

Oct 24, 2014

The World Health Organization says millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines will start being tested in March.

Added benefit of vedolizumab is not proven

Oct 23, 2014

Vedolizumab (trade name Entyvio) has been approved since May 2014 for patients with moderately to severely active Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis. In an early benefit assessment pursuant to the Act on the Reform of the ...

Seaweed menace may yield new medicines

Oct 22, 2014

An invasive seaweed clogging up British coasts could be a blessing in disguise. University of Greenwich scientists have won a cash award to turn it into valuable compounds which can lead to new, life-saving drugs.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2009
No Aspirin after the flu shot. Now, this suggest that one should not treat influenza either with aspirin (or NSAIDs), right?

At least, if you don't want to get the same influenza twice.