Health Viewpoints

Explaining COVID-19 Vaccine-Induced Autoimmunity, Hepatitis, and Healing

BY Dr. Yuhong Dong TIMEMay 12, 2022 PRINT

With more and more reports of adverse reactions caused by the COVID-19 vaccines, the medical community is becoming increasingly aware of vaccine-induced autoimmune diseases.

2 Doses of Pfizer Vaccine Resulted in Developing Hepatitis Twice

A study on vaccines and autoimmune hepatitis published on April 21, 2022, in the Journal of Hepatology, an authoritative medical journal, described a case reported from the University Medical Center Freiburg, Germany. In this case, a 52-year-old man developed acute hepatitis twice after receiving two doses of Pfizer vaccine.

The first time was 10 days after the first dose of the vaccine, when the patient developed symptoms of acute hepatitis, including nausea, fatigue, and jaundice, with significantly elevated liver function/injury markers. At that time, his doctor did not associate the patient’s hepatitis with the vaccine, and the patient recovered on his own without any special treatment.

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Therefore, 41 days later, the patient received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Twenty days after receiving the second dose, the man again developed symptoms of hepatitis, and his liver function indices were significantly elevated, which was considered severe acute liver injury. One of his liver function indices, alanine transaminases (ALT), soared to over 2,000. Even in patients with severe viral hepatitis, it is rare to see an ALT level of over 2,000. The average person would be very nervous seeing their ALT level reaching a few hundreds.

The recurrent episode of hepatitis put his doctor on alert.

The doctor ruled out the common causes of liver damage, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and alcohol ingestion. And, he finally discovered that the man was positive for autoimmune markers. Moreover, the doctor noticed a strong correlation between the onset of hepatitis and the timing of his vaccinations, and began to suspect that the vaccine might have caused the severe liver injury.

Some anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) appeared in the patient’s blood, which means that the patient’s immune system was attacking his own cells’ nucleus.

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After obtaining a small amount of liver tissue and examining it, the doctor found that the patient’s liver had 5.3 times the normal number of immune cells, suggesting a severe inflammatory cell infiltration in the liver.

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Why Does the Body’s Immune System Attack Its Own Cells?

Isn’t an increase in immune cells a good thing? Why would this harm our organs?

The key is what are the types of immune cells and where they are located. We need adequate immune cells in the blood circulation to defend ourselves against invading external pathogens. However, there should not be so many immune cells in the liver, especially when the presence of immune cells inside the liver tissue causes inflammation.

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As we know, the immune system is a principal self-protection mechanism helping the body to fight against external viruses and bacteria. It has the ability to distinguish between “self” and “non-self” (i.e. foreign), to differentiate between pathogens and healthy self cells, to respond to foreign microorganisms, and to remove germs, in order to protect the body.

First, let’s talk about how the immune system works.

1. Innate Immune System

The immune system has two parts. The part that directly deals with pathogens at the front line of our body (mucous, skin) is called the innate immune system, such as epithelial cells, innate immune cells, natural killer cells, and phagocytes. These cells have pattern recognition receptors on their surfaces that specifically screen for characteristic molecules on the surface of harmful substances, such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) or flagella on the surface of bacteria, and viral DNA or RNA.

The innate immune system does not require training to recognize harmful substances and hence does not produce autoimmunity.

2. Acquired Immune System

Associated with autoimmune diseases is the acquired immune system.

The acquired immune system is composed of lymphocytes, mainly T cells and B cells. The acquired immune system allows for acquired learning, and instead of recognizing the enemy “as a whole,” it responds more slowly and more delicately to “specific proteins” on the surface of the enemy.

However, since the acquired immune system operates in a more detailed manner, it can only identify enemies by their “parts” (just like identifying an elephant by feeling its nose), and it is prone to “misidentification” and disruption, which ultimately leads to an autoimmune response.

The essence of autoimmune diseases is that the body’s immune system is in a state of chaos and disorder. One of the criteria for diagnosing autoimmune diseases is the presence of antibodies in the body against its own components, such as anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) against the body’s own nuclei. Common autoimmune diseases include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, which is often caused by an autoimmune attack on the joints;
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus, which is caused by an attack often on the skin and kidneys;
  • Dry syndrome, which is often caused by an attack on the salivary and lacrimal glands;
  • Autoimmune liver diseases, in which the liver is attacked by the autoimmune system.

Vaccine-Induced Autoimmune Hepatitis

Why did the vaccine cause his autoimmune liver disease in this case?

The antibodies in the body produced by the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines can cross-react with many of the body’s own components and can trigger an autoimmune state in the body. In this patient, a large amount of lymphocytes infiltration was observed around the blood vessels in the liver, and the inflammation may be related to the irritants from the blood.

The doctor’s further analysis of the composition of the immune cells in the liver revealed that these immune cells were responsive to the COVID-19 spike proteins, suggesting that these cells were induced by the spike proteins produced by the COVID-19 vaccine. They are specific CD8-positive T cells, which are cytotoxic T cells that are highly aggressive, and their function is to remove virus-infected cells.

In addition, this patient had hypothyroidism and a relatively disordered immune system which attacks his own thyroid.

This case reminds us that if one’s autoimmune state is already abnormal, and he or she is suffering from immune system diseases, the person must be cautious in receiving a vaccine. If there is a serious adverse reaction after the first dose, then he or she must be more cautious in receiving the second one or subsequent dose.

That said, COVID-19 itself has also been linked to hepatitis. In some cases, COVID-19 infection has presented as acute hepatitis.

Cases of Autoimmune Hepatitis After Vaccination

In fact, cases of liver injury after inoculation with the COVID-19 vaccines have been reported since 2021.

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Case in the United States: In July 2021, the University of Alabama reported that a healthy 35-year-old woman, who received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in the third month postpartum, developed autoimmune hepatitis approximately seven days later. Her biochemical markers were elevated, and her liver histology showed infiltration of lymphocytes, plasma cells and eosinophils. She was diagnosed with vaccine-related drug-induced liver injury with features of autoimmune hepatitis.

Case in Italy: A 43-year-old woman, who developed acute cholestatic hepatitis 15 days after Pfizer vaccination, was considered to have vaccine-induced, immune-mediated liver injury, too.

Case in Spain: A 41-year-old woman, who developed acute hepatitis after receiving the Moderna vaccine, was diagnosed with vaccine-induced autoimmune liver injury, accompanied by severe cholestasis.

All of the above cases were published in the Journal of Hepatology, a top ranked journal in liver disease.

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With the release of the adverse event reports of Pfizer’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, we are seeing that there are many adverse event reports of autoimmune diseases. In addition to autoimmune liver diseases, there is also autoimmune myocarditis, nephritis, and nervous system damage.

As the medical community becomes increasingly aware of autoimmune diseases, it is likely that there will be an increasing number of such reports in the future. If an individual develops unexplained symptoms after vaccination, especially those related to the digestive tract, such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and itching, he or she can discuss the possibility of autoimmune diseases with a doctor to find the cause as soon as possible.

Allergies Are Also an Immune Disorder

The normal human immune system works in a coordinated and orderly manner, but when it is in disorder, various conditions may occur. In addition to autoimmune hepatitis, many other modern diseases can be attributed to immunity problems.

  • When the immune system is too weak to outside invaders, people are prone to colds and various infections.
  • When the immune system is too weak internally, the body is prone to cancer.
  • When the immune system is too aggressive internally, it will produce autoantibodies, which will start attacking the body’s own cells, producing autoimmune diseases and damaging the body’s self-repair mechanism.
  • When the immune system is too aggressive to external substances, allergies can occur.

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Allergies are also one of the adverse reactions after vaccination.

Being allergic is also a state of imbalance in the immune system. It occurs when the body overreacts to harmful substances, such as dust, pollen, and certain foods (e.g. peanuts), and the acquired immune system produces the antibody IgE to activate mast cells to release histamine, causing damage to the body’s own cells and inducing allergies.

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Autoimmune Diseases Are Curable

How do we treat autoimmune diseases, including allergies?

In order to treat a disease, we need to first analyze its causes. Autoimmune diseases, like many other diseases, arise from a combination of internal (demographic, genetic) predispositions and environmental triggers that disrupt the immune system’s ability to ignore a person’s own tissue and cells.

The internal factors of the autoimmune system include:

  • Age: Many patients with autoimmune diseases are relatively young, with patients aged 15 to 44 being the most common.
  • Gender: Some autoimmune diseases occur more frequently in women, such as lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis. Men are more likely to develop ankylosing spondylitis than are women.
  • Genes: in the 1970s, the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) became the first area of the genome to be linked to autoimmune disease. The region contains genes involved in presenting antigens to immune cells. It harbors risk factors for numerous autoimmune diseases. Around half of genetic susceptibility to type 1 diabetes, for instance, is accounted for by HLA variation.

There are many external triggers, including:

  • Toxins: such as fluorinated compounds from fast food packaging boxes and non-stick pan coatings.
  • Diet: The process of heating red meat at high temperatures produces advanced glycation end products (AGE), which damage the body’s DNA
  • Drugs: including vaccines
  • Viral Infections: such as the EBV virus associated with multiple sclerosis.
  • Stress: Comparing more than 106,000 people who had stress disorders with more than 1 million people without them, researchers found that stress was tied to a 36 percent greater risk of developing 41 autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease.

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How do we treat immune disorders? Steroid hormones are often used to suppress excessive immune responses to temporarily relieve and control symptoms.

However, regardless of whether the symptoms have subsided or not, it is important to look for and eliminate the triggers of the autoimmune state, so the immune system can repair itself.

Stimulating the Body’s Self-Healing Ability

In fact, in addition to medication, the human body has an amazingly strong endowed ability to heal itself from diseases. This powerful self-healing ability is called homeostasis, which is like a powerful buffer system which is able to resist external harmful stimuli.

For instance, the body can regulate blood sugar within a certain range; cells’ autophagy can get rid of internal waste to maintain balance; and damaged DNA also has a strong self-repair mechanism to counteract external radiation and harmful substances.

In recent years, some studies have also shown us the wonders of the human immune system–its powerful self-healing ability.

In April 2021, a study published in the journal Cell and conducted by some scientists from Australia, the UK, and the United States revealed for the first time a natural mechanism in the human body that corrects maladies such as autoimmunity and allergies.

When we experience autoimmunity and allergies, the body’s follicular regulatory T cells (Tfr) produce a substance called neuritin. This substance inhibits the excessive conversion of B cells to plasma cells, and it also inhibits the production of antibody IgE by plasma cells, thus preventing allergies. The study discovered that the number of neuritin decreases when stress level is high and increases when stress is relieved, and the autoimmune state is relieved accordingly. In other words, when the body has an autoimmune or allergic tendency, the body will mobilize its internal repair mechanisms to eliminate the imbalance in the body’s immune system.

As aforementioned, the amount of neuritin is related to stress, and our state of mind affects the functions of our immune system. In our daily life, we can find many excellent ways to stimulate the body’s own healing ability.

Well-known Taiwanese designer, He Qingbo, was under great pressure at work and often stayed up late at night. Once he even worked 72 hours in a row. This caused serious damage to his health, resulting in dizziness, hives, and other symptoms. His immune system lost its ability to recognize the external environment. He was allergic to everything he ate, and his face would even swell in reaction to the wind. The quality of his life became very poor.

Later, he began to get close to nature and moved to Taiwan’s Miaoli County, which is renowned for its beautiful scenery. He lived in the mountains, surrounded by flowers and trees, with sunlight inside and outside his house. In this environment, his body’s incorrect immune state was soon balanced, and dizziness, hives, and other discomforts disappeared. And he resumed a healthy life.
According to the Daily Mail, Georgia Robinson, a 25-year-old flight attendant from England, suddenly developed psoriasis that spread throughout her body, forcing her to quit her job and suffer from severe depression.

Later, in addition to symptomatic treatment, she changed her diet by giving up dairy products and red meat, and her condition improved completely. She posted pictures of herself before and after her recovery on her Instagram account, stating that it was her diet that improved her psoriasis symptoms and made her lead a healthier life.

Cow milk contains protease inhibitors, which increase the gaps between cells in the cattle’s intestinal lining, causing what we call “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” If processed in the wrong way, red meat can produce AGEs, which damage human DNA. Many autoimmune diseases are also associated with genetic changes.

In conclusion, the human body is a dynamic, massive, self-balancing, and self-restoring system. Numerous scientific studies have proven that the human body has the ability to heal itself. When autoimmune diseases or severe allergies occur, it often indicates that there is a problem with the body’s own balancing and self healing mechanisms.

In our daily life, our body is constantly associated with external substances and environmental factors. When the external damage exceeds the body’s ability to recover, diseases will occur; when the body’s ability to recover exceeds the external damage, then diseases will not break out.

Regardless of whatever external obstacles or difficulties we may face on a daily basis, we shall stay calm and focus on how to elevate our own God-given self-healing ability. When a disease occurs, in addition to controlling its symptoms, we also need to find out what problems are present. If you can figure out your own incorrect ways of living, eating, and thinking, and correct them in time, you will be able to recover from the disease completely.

References

https://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(22)00234-3/fulltext

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8056822/

https://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/action/showPdf?pii=S0168-8278%2821%2901904-8

https://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(21)00417-7/fulltext

https://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(21)00417-7/fulltext

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2685155

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Dr. Yuhong Dong, medical doctor and Ph.D in infectious diseases, is the Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of a Swiss biotech company and former Senior Medical Scientific Expert for Antiviral Drug Development in Novartis Pharma in Switzerland.
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