2 ALS Cases May Be Linked to Gardasil Vaccine
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Rapidly Progressive Course
In addition to the short time span between vaccination and the onset of symptoms, several other factors made the researchers suspect a link to Gardasil vaccination, Lomen-Hoerth says.
In both young women, the disease progressed more quickly than typical for young ALS patients, she says.
Additionally, at autopsy, “we were surprised that the spinal cord was so inflammatory. That is very different from what we normally see in ALS,” she says.
The pathology features “all support a temporal association between [the illness] and vaccination,” Lomen-Hoerth says.
She spoke at the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association.
Because it is extremely rare, affecting just one in 2-3 million young people, there are very few studies of juvenile ALS, Lomen-Hoerth says.
Her team plans further study comparing the symptoms and pathological features of young adults with ALS who got the Gardasil vaccine to those who didn’t get the shots. “If the features are identical, then we’ll know [the vaccine] is not the cause,” Lomen-Hoerth says.
In the meantime, she and colleagues have met with scientists from the FDA and CDC to scour their adverse-event database, called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), for any other reports linking ALS to Gardasil or other vaccinations. “So far, we haven’t found any,” she says.
Merck is also continuing to work with the CDC and FDA to monitor any adverse events that may have been caused by the vaccine, according to Eisele.
Yadollah Harati, MD, a neurologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says the findings raise a red flag.
The fact that “the postmortem studies show distinct immunological features different from what is typical of ALS” suggest an association between vaccination and ALS, he says.
“I will be asking any of my young patients with ALS whether they received the Gardasil vaccine,” he tells WebMD. “I have one 20-year old ALS patient, and we didn’t think to ask that.”