Purpose: This study was designed to evaluate the immunogenicity of the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine in Alaska Native chronic alcoholics and compare these responses with those in age- and sex-matched nonalcoholic, Native and non-Native control subjects.
Patients and methods: Native alcoholic patients were recruited from the inpatient medical service and outpatient clinics. Healthy age- and sex-matched Alaska Native and non-Native nonalcoholics were recruited from hospital employees. At the initial visit, a standardized questionnaire, the Alcohol Dependency Scale, was administered to all participants. Participants were examined for liver diseases; blood was drawn for liver function tests and prevaccination pneumococcal antibody levels. Charts of all Native participants were reviewed for alcohol-related diseases. Participants received one dose of the 23-valent pneumococcal vaccine at the time of the initial visit and returned 20 to 55 days after immunization for liver function tests and pneumococcal antibody level measurement. Serotype-specific pneumococcal antibody levels were measured by radioimmunoassay. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the proportion of persons whose serotype-specific antibody level doubled following vaccination. A model including adjustments for age, sex, and initial antibody level was used to examine the effect of alcohol status and ethnicity on response to the vaccine. Eighty-five persons completed the study. Of these, 41 were chronic alcoholics and 44 were nonalcoholic. Of these, 21 were Alaska Natives and 23 were non-Natives.
Results: Before vaccination, the geometric mean titers (GMTs) were similar in all 3 groups but were slightly higher in Native alcoholic participants for 11 of 12 serotypes tested. For 11 or more serotypes tested, 46% of alcoholics and 27% of nonalcoholics had total antibody levels at or above 500 nanograms of antibody nitrogen per milliliter (p = 0.11). After vaccination, the GMTs were higher in nonalcoholic than in alcoholic participants for serotypes 3, 7F, and 19F (p < 0.05). When Natives and non-Natives were compared, non-Natives had higher antibody levels than Native participants for 10 of 12 serotypes. After vaccination, 83% of alcoholics and 91% of nonalcoholics had pneumococcal antibody levels of more than 500 nanograms of antibody nitrogen per milliliter for at least 11 serotypes. When responses consisting of a twofold or greater increase in antibody level were compared, a greater proportion of nonalcoholics than alcoholics responded to serotypes 3, 4, 7F, 8, and 19F. This difference was significant for types 3 and 19F only (p < 0.05). In alcoholics there was a direct correlation between pneumococcal antibody level and age both before and after vaccination. This was significant before vaccination for serotypes 4, 6B, 18C, and 23F, and after vaccination for these types and for types 1 and 19F. In nonalcoholics there was a correlation between age and antibody response, following vaccination, for serotype 9N and 18C. Alcoholic males had antibody levels higher than that in females for most serotypes, but significantly so only for serotype 12F before vaccination, and for type 14 after vaccination. There were no sex differences seen among nonalcoholics, and no differences in response to vaccine could be detected in patients with or without liver dysfunction.
Conclusion: In this study of Alaska Natives with chronic alcoholism, Native and non-Native participants responded adequately to immunization with the 23-valent pneumococcal vaccine, although significant differences in some serotypes were evident.