UPDATE: A major paper supporting the autoimmunity narcolepsy connection has been retracted, please see my update to this post here.
It’s been a pretty rough flu season. While my household has so far been lucky, (knocking on wood all over the house) many were knocked out of commission by this year’s influenza epidemic. Now, it turns out there’s more to be worried about than just catching the flu. A long range result of having the flu or having a flu vaccine can be development of narcolepsy…..What?!
Narcolepsy is a neurological condition in which your brain cannot regulate sleep and wake cycles appropriately. Narcoleptics can fall asleep at any time regardless of their current activity. Large-scale genetic studies have shown that narcolepsy has a strong association with mutations in the T cell receptor alpha locus. This surprising link to the immune system led to research that implicates auto-immune malfunction wherein a person’s immune system kills neurons expressing the protein hypocretin which is necessary to regulate wakefulness.
So now how is this related to the flu? Continue reading