The onset of narcolepsy, an irreversible sleep disorder, has been associated with 2009 influenza pandemic (pH1N1) infections in China, and with ASO3-adjuvanted pH1N1 vaccinations using Pandemrix in Europe. Intriguingly, however, the increased incidence was only observed following vaccination with Pandemrix but not Arepanrix in Canada. In this study, the mutational burden of actual vaccine lots of Pandemrix (n = 6) and Arepanrix (n = 5) sourced from Canada, and Northern Europe were characterized by mass spectrometry. The four most abundant influenza proteins across both vaccines were nucleoprotein NP, hemagglutinin HA, matrix protein M1, with the exception that Pandemrix harbored a significantly increased proportion of neuraminidase NA (7.5%) as compared to Arepanrix (2.6%). Most significantly, 17 motifs in HA, NP, and M1 harbored mutations, which significantly differed in Pandemrix versus Arepanrix. Among these, a 6-fold higher deamidation of HA146 (p.Asn146Asp) in Arepanrix was found relative to Pandemrix, while NP257 (p.Thr257Ala) and NP424 (p.Thr424Ile) were increased in Pandemrix. DQ0602 binding and tetramer analysis with mutated epitopes were conducted in Pandemrix-vaccinated cases versus controls but were unremarkable. Pandemrix harbored lower mutational burden than Arepanrix, indicating higher similarity to wild-type 2009 pH1N1, which could explain differences in narcolepsy susceptibility amongst the vaccines.
Keywords: influenza vaccine; mass spectrometry; mutations; narcolepsy.