Gut Microbiome May Impact the Effectiveness of Flu Vaccine

The practice of universal vaccination needs review based on new research showing individual vaccine response
June 1, 2020 Updated: June 1, 2020

Research conducted by Stanford University scientists found that the use of oral antibiotics weakens the health of the gut microbiome, a complex community of trillions of microbial cells found in each individual. This weakening of the microbiome, in turn, weakens the body’s immune system and alters the response to influenza vaccination.

During the study, all participants received the flu vaccination but only half received antibiotics for a five-day period before receiving the vaccination. Those receiving oral antibiotics had reduced levels of gut bacteria, a hindered response to the vaccine, and experienced higher levels of inflammation—findings that were consistent with previous studies.

Interestingly, researchers believe that this may account for the difference in response to vaccination among older adults, who often have weakened immune responses due to aging. The results of this study seem to suggest that the one-size-fits-all policy of vaccination for everyone, regardless of age or health, may not be the most effective solution and emphasizes how little is understood about the efficacy of vaccinations in general.

This wasn’t the first study to find that a loss of microbiome diversity adversely impacts the effectiveness of vaccination. Additional analysis has found that disrupted microbiomes can impair the responses of immunoglobin A (IgA), a type of antibody responsible for the immune function of mucous membranes, and reduce the efficacy of vaccinations.

Microbiome Damage and Vaccination Response

Researchers are increasingly convinced that the health of the gut microbiome shapes the health of the body’s immune response and that maintaining the health of your microbiome is key to the prevention of a variety of diseases, as well as the response to vaccination.

The complex nature of the bacterial system in your gut continues to impress scientists, but we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of understanding the importance of keeping these bacteria healthy and active. It’s clear, however, that deviations from the “normal” development of gut bacteria can have a catastrophic impact on our immune system. Examples of things that can create immune-disrupting bacterial deviations includeCesarean section, formula-based diet for infants, vaccination, and antibiotic use, including in infants.

These disruptions may lead to a greater risk of inflammatory disease later in life, including Type 1 diabetesCrohn’s diseaseinflammatory bowel disease, pulmonary disease, atopy, and obesity, as well as a variety of cancers. Researchers have also discovered a possible link between multiple sclerosis and a disrupted microbiome.

This interplay between the healthy gut microbiome and the immune response is often seen in individuals adhering to a highly processed-food “Western” diet. This type of diet disrupts the production of autoantibodies, a type of antibody produced by the immune system, and a common predictor of autoimmune diseases.

An additional dietary factor that increases the production of autoantibodies is gluten, which is highly prevalent in standard Western diets.

Multiple studies have identified antibiotic treatment as an enhancer of inflammation, concluding that the overuse of antibiotics (especially in high-income countries) could explain the dramatic rise in autoimmune and inflammatory-related diseases.

This use of antibiotics induces the relocation of bacteria across the lining of the large intestine, promoting inflammation. According to one study, “Bacterial translocation occurred following a single dose of most antibiotics tested, and the predisposition for increased inflammation was only associated with antibiotics inducing bacterial translocation.”

The mechanisms in our body that affect the efficacy of vaccination are numerous and complex. Our scientific understanding of the importance of a healthy gut microbiome is still in its infancy, as is knowledge surrounding the health consequences of our vaccination culture.

The one-size-fits-all method of vaccinating everyone deserves careful further research given the various adverse effects of antibiotics and improper diet on the immune system. For more information about the research surrounding vaccinations, and the possible effects vaccinations have on your body, please visit the vaccination research database.

The GMI Research Group is dedicated to investigating the most important health and environmental issues of the day. Special emphasis will be placed on environmental health. Our focused and deep research will explore the many ways in which the present condition of the human body directly reflects the true state of the ambient environment. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Sign up for the newsletter.