Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
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A team of researchers recently took a look at the issue of HBV vaccine reliability in people with celiac disease.
The study team included Mohammad Rostami Nejad, Kamran Rostami, and Mohammad Reza Zali. They are variously affiliated with the Research Center for Gastroenterology and Liver Disease at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran, and with Acute Medicine at Dudley Group of Hospital in Dudley, UK. Together, they reviewed data from previous studies.
The ability to respond to recombinant HBV vaccine is associated with certain gene sites. At those sites, certain HLA haplotypes, such as B8, DR3, and DQ2 are common genetic markers among non-responders.
Since HLA genotypes play an important role in unresponsiveness to the HBV vaccine, and since 90-95% of people with celiac disease have HLA-DQ2, celiac disease may be a factor in this failure to respond to the HBV vaccine.
For one study, Ertekin et al., a research team gave HBV vaccinations, according to a standard immunization schedule, to 52 children with celiac disease, and another twenty matched for age and sex.
The average age of the celiac disease patients was 10.7 ± 4 years (range, 4-18 years). Anti-HBs titers were positive in 32 (61.5%) patients and negative in 20 (38.5%) patients, while they were positive in 18 (90%) of the children in the control group (P < 0.05). The review team found statistically significant differences between negative anti-HBs titers, clinical presentation of CD, and dietary compliance in patients with CD (P < 0.05).
In all, 32 of the 52 children with celiac disease responded favorably to HBV vaccination. This was a substantially lower percentage that the 18 of 20 control subjects responded (P < 0.05).
Ertekin et al. concluded that a significantly higher percentage of children with celiac disease failed to respond to hepatitis B vaccination, as compared with the control group.
They concluded that response to the HBV vaccine in children with celiac disease should be investigated, and a different immunization schedule should be developed for them. They suggested that celiac children who follow a gluten-free diet may have a better immune response to the HBV vaccine.
The data fits with previous studies that confirm the findings that children with celiac disease fail to respond to the HBV vaccine at significantly higher rates than do healthy children.
In fact, the researchers point out a similar study on adults, Noh et al., revealed that, of 23 adults with celiac disease who had completed a full course of HBV vaccination, 19 tested positive for HBsAb and 13 failed to acquire proper long-term immunity.
Another study, by Stachowski et al., further cemented this connection between HLA and non-responsiveness to HBV vaccine. In that study, 34 out of 153 patients with end-stage renal disease failed to respond to HBV vaccine, and HLA-DQ2 was found almost exclusively in the non-responder group.
Long stretches of time between vaccination and antibody testing might be one reason even celiac disease patients who follow a gluten-free diet have significantly reduced post-vaccination levels of HBV antibody. Therefore, current guidelines recommend revaccinating celiac patients once they have established a reliable gluten-free diet.
This study was not designed to assess the presence of HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 in the groups. Therefore, future studies assessing HLA haplotypes in celiac disease should seek to describe the role of HLA typing in response to HBV vaccination.
The evidence indicates that early diagnosis of celiac disease, and treatment with a gluten-free diet may increase the overall percentage of patients responding favorably to the HBV vaccine.
Treatment of celiac disease with a strict, gluten-free diet seems to play a positive role in the development of antibody memory.
The review team points out that the high prevalence of celiac disease in the general population and a lack of response to HBV vaccine in untreated patients, invites routine assessment in patients with celiac disease receiving the HBV vaccine.
Lastly, the review team notes that non-responsiveness to HBV vaccine may indicate undiagnosed celiac disease or noncompliance with gluten-free diet.