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Understanding the Syndrome Known as ASIA

Professor Yehuda Shoenfeld, a prominent researcher and clinician specializing in autoimmune and rheumatic diseases, talked with BioMed Central about his observation of a correlation between autoimmune disorders and one of four distinct conditions associated with previous exposure to an adjuvant, which is an agent added to intensify a desired reaction. In Prof. Shoenfield’s experience, patients with Siliconosis, Gulf War syndrome (GWS), macrophagic-myofasciitis syndrome (MMF) and vaccine-induced disorders present with a similar range of clinical symptoms, leading him to recommend that these comparable conditions should be grouped together under the umbrella term Autoimmune (Autoinflammatory) Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants, or ASIA.

ASIA was first recognized as a distinct phenomenon when symptoms that had been noted in soldiers returning from the Gulf War zone were also seen among those who had never been deployed to the war area. The likely culprit was identified as the vaccines given to all of the soldiers or, more specifically, to the adjuvants used in those vaccines. Prevalent among those adjuvants is aluminum, one of the oldest, cheapest and most potent materials used to provoke an immune system response to a vaccine, and one of the most common materials used in the world today.

While Prof. Shoenfeld is not opposed to vaccines, he stresses that they are not without risks. “When you give millions of people an active substance, and vaccines are active substances, then some may suffer from adverse events. After all, vaccines contain viral or synthetic particles emulsified in adjuvant, which is supposed to enhance the immune reaction. So we have to identify the people who are at risk of suffering from side effects due to the chronic stimulation of their immune system. First of all, we have to diagnose them, to treat them—and some of them should be compensated, because the vaccines are quite often imposed on them either by the state, the government, or by the employer.”

Prof Shoenfeld’s research revealed that the HLA-DRB1 gene found in those who developed an autoimmune disease following vaccination also was more prevalent in the ASIA population as a whole. He postulates that with advances in personalized medicine, it may become possible to identify those at risk of adverse reactions based on their genetic makeup and so avoid using potentially toxic vaccine adjuvants in those individuals.

Explaining that chronic stimulation of the immune response triggered by the antigen is one of the negative effects that may activate the autoimmunity. This chronic stimulation could compromise the blood-brain barrier and allow toxic particles, such as aluminum deposits, to enter the brain. Bolstering his explanation of ASIA, he notes that this circumstance has been observed previously with dialysis patients, many of whom developed ASIA-like symptoms.

Prof. Shoenfeld notes that environmental poisons such as lead, polychlorinated biphenyls or trichloroethylene; genetic factors; and such influences as low levels of vitamin D also may play a role in the development of autoimmune disorders but, he says, it is very important that efforts “be made to understand the mechanisms behind ASIA and to develop better adjuvants, especially in vaccines. After all, numerous people are vaccinated regularly, and we should minimize any potential side effects.”

Read the full article “Video Q&A: What is ASIA? An Interview With Yehuda Shoenfeld” at BMC Medicine.

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