Study suggests link between untreated depression and response to shingles vaccine

February 14, 2013

Results from a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases suggest a link between untreated depression in older adults and decreased effectiveness of the herpes zoster, or shingles, vaccine. Older adults are known to be at risk for shingles, a painful condition caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, and more than a million new cases occur each year in the U.S. The vaccine boosts cell-mediated immunity to the virus and can decrease the incidence and severity of the condition.

In a two-year study, led by Michael Irwin, MD, at the University of California-Los Angeles, researchers measured the immune responses to shingles vaccination among 40 subjects aged 60 or older with a and compared these responses to similar levels in 52 control patients matched by age and gender. Measurements were taken at baseline, and then 6 weeks, 1 year, and 2 years after the patients received the shingles vaccine or a placebo.

Depressed patients not being treated with antidepressants (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors) had lower cell-mediated immunity to the varicella-zoster virus—and were less able to respond to the shingles vaccine—compared with patients who were not depressed or who were depressed but were receiving treatment with antidepressants, the researchers found.

The findings suggest that patients with untreated depression were "poorly protected by shingles vaccination," said Dr. Irwin. , on the other hand, boosted cell-mediated immunity and increased the effectiveness of the vaccine among those studied, even when the treatment did not lessen , the researchers found. , noted Dr. Irwin, appeared to "normalize the immune response to the zoster vaccine" in the study.

Larger studies are needed to evaluate the possible relationship between untreated depression and the risk of shingles, the study authors noted, along with research to establish what mechanisms are responsible for patients' reduced immune response. The possible connection, however, is potentially significant: If antidepressants increase the efficacy of the shingles vaccine in those who are depressed, such treatment may have a similar effect on the of depressed patients to other important vaccines, such those against influenza.

Diagnosis and treatment of depression in older adults may increase of the effectiveness of the shingles vaccine and help diminish the risk of shingles, the study authors conclude from their findings. "Efforts are also needed to identify and diagnose depressed elderly patients who might benefit from either a more potent vaccine or a multi-dose vaccination schedule," Dr. Irwin said.

Explore further: Study challenges concerns on effectiveness of administering pneumococcal, shingles vaccines together

Related Stories

Short-term risk of shingles recurrence low

June 5, 2012

People who have had an episode of herpes zoster, also known as shingles, face a relatively low short-term risk of developing shingles, according to a Kaiser Permanente Southern California study published online in the Journal ...

Recommended for you

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

One-step test for hepatitis C virus infection developed

November 14, 2015

UC Irvine Health researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, director of hepatology services, will present findings at the ...

Computer model reveals deadly route of Ebola outbreak

November 10, 2015

Using a novel statistical model, a research team led by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health mapped the spread of the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.