People who are immunocompromised are vulnerable to infectious diseases such as influenza and COVID-19. Their immune systems often lack the ability to detect and fight off infections. One way to try to protect immunocompromised individuals is to give vaccinations. Unfortunately, the immunocompromised state may mean that the vaccine is less effective. Stated another way, the immune system must react to the vaccine to develop immunity to the associated infection. If the immune system is too weak to react to the vaccine, immunocompromised patients remain unprotected even after receiving a vaccine. What is needed is a way to boost the “immunogenicity” of the vaccine.

A promising way to help the immune system is to provide an adjuvant with the vaccine. The adjuvant makes the immune system react more vigorously to the vaccine itself (i.e. increases the immunogenicity of the vaccine). In immunocompromised patients, this adjuvant can mean the difference between a vaccine working and not working. One vaccine adjuvant is thymosin alpha 1, also known as Zadaxin.

Researchers conducted a clinical trial to see if Zadaxin could increase the immunogenicity of the pandemic H1N1v flu vaccine (Focetria) in patients who were immunocompromised. Specifically, they selected patients who were on chronic hemodialysis, which is a treatment for end-stage kidney disease that can interfere with immune system function. They split the patients into three groups: one group got the flu vaccine only, while the other two groups received the flu vaccine plus either low dose or high dose Zadaxin.

The researchers found that adding Zadaxin to the flu vaccine allowed the immune system to generate a much stronger response to the flu vaccine than it did in those who received the vaccine only. More people who received Zadaxin plus flu vaccine developed immunity to influenza than those who received the flu vaccine alone.

The authors admit that larger studies are needed to confirm the finding, but they also note that there were no adverse events (i.e. side effects) caused by Zadaxin during the trial. The treatment was safe, well-tolerated, and did not negatively affect patient laboratory values. It will be interesting to see if this same adjuvant will help improve immunogenicity to the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

Talk to your Care Coordinator about the peptide option, Thymosin-alpha 1 now offered by Stemedix.

Reference: Carraro, G. (2012). Thymosin-alpha 1 (Zadaxin) Enhances the Immunogenicity of an Adjuvated Pandemic H1N1v Influenza Vaccine (Focetria) in Hemodialyzed Patients: A Pilot Study. Vaccine. 2012 Feb 1;30(6):1170-80.

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