Study objectives: Evidence suggests a cell-mediated autoimmune pathogenesis for narcolepsy type 1 (NT1), but it is not clear whether the disease is associated with overall changes in T cell subsets. The increase in NT1 incidence after H1N1 vaccination campaign with the Pandemrix™ vaccine suggests that disease-relevant changes in the immune system following this vaccination were important. In this study, we aimed to investigate differentiated T cell subsets and levels of CD25 and CD69 activation markers in a cohort of mainly Pandemrix™-vaccinated NT1 patients compared with their vaccinated and unvaccinated siblings.
Methods: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were collected in parallel and analysed with flow cytometry in 31 NT1 patients with disease onset after the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic and/or Pandemrix™ vaccination and 45 of their non-narcoleptic siblings (29/31 and 34/45 vaccinated, respectively).
Results: We observed significantly lower effector memory CD4+ T cell levels in NT1 patients compared to their siblings, when controlling for HLA DQB1∗06:02 and vaccination status. Further, within the sibling group, vaccination status significantly affected frequencies of central memory and CD8+CD25+ T cells, and HLA DQB1∗06:02 status significantly affected frequencies of CD4+CD25+ T cells.
Conclusion: We confirm that NT1 is associated with lower levels of effector memory CD4+ T cells in peripheral blood. Importantly, this finding was only significant when controlling for vaccination and HLA status in both patients and controls. We thus demonstrate the importance of characterizing such factors (eg HLA and vaccination) when studying T cell subsets in NT1. This might explain earlier conflicting results.
Keywords: CD25 activation markers; CD69 activation markers; H1N1 (Pandemrix™) vaccination; Narcolepsy type 1; Post influenza A (H1N1) pandemic; T cell differentiation.
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