The sleep condition narcolepsy could be prevented with a flu vaccine, researchers have discovered.
Scientists in China have found those vulnerable to the condition, which causes sufferers to fall asleep unexpectedly, can be protected by a mild flu vaccine. Their research came after the European Medicines Agency recommended banning the use of Pandemrix, a widely used flu vaccine, in children under 20 because of its links with narcolepsy.
The China study has now linked the disorder to flu infection in susceptible individuals and found that use of a flu vaccine other than Pandemrix may protect them. The research looked at 900 patients diagnosed with narcolepsy and found the condition was seasonal, with a peak incidence five to seven months after the peak incidence of flu. Although the study does not prove that flu causes narcolepsy, it shows a strong correlation.
Emmanuel Mignot from Stanford University, California, said: "It is very possible that being vaccinated with a mild vaccine...blocks you from getting a big infection that could increase your risk of narcolepsy."
Further research was needed, Dr Mignot said.