Formaldehyde as a fixitive in vaccines

Ian A. York iayork at
Sat Aug 17 21:11:46 EST 1996

In article <4v5ero$722 at>,
Betty Bridges <bcb56 at> wrote:
>With that in mind is it possible for formaldehyde and other reactive
>chemicals to bind with other substances in the air and cause a immune
>response to those substances?  
>Would there be any significant difference in the effect of substances
>inhaled and absorbed into the blood stream and those given by

There is little evidence that as a general principle formaldehyde
increases antigenicity (i.e. increases the immune response to antigens;
formaldehyde can cause already-generated antibodies to react with
proteins, but as that's irrelevant to this discussion I won't go into it). 
In fact there is some evidence that formaldehyde in general decreases

    di Tommaso A.  de Magistris MT.  Bugnoli M.  Marsili I.  Rappuoli R.
Abrignani S.
    Formaldehyde treatment of proteins can constrain presentation to T
cells by limiting antigen processing.
   Infection & Immunity.  62(5):1830-4, 1994

    Bachmann MF.  Kundig TM.  Kalberer CP.  Hengartner H.  Zinkernagel RM. 
    Formalin inactivation of vesicular stomatitis virus impairs T-cell-
but not T-help-independent B-cell responses. 
    Journal of Virology.  67(7):3917-22, 1993

so if anything it's more likely that any formaldehye-treated airborne 
substance would be less antigenic.

Secondly, looking at the abstract of the article you cite, it isn't at all
clear that the formaldehyde is *increasing* the antigenicity of the
vaccine; rather, it may be *preserving* the antigenicity by preventing
degradation of the antigen(s) in vitro (which is a known effect of
formaldehyde, of course); so even in this one instance I don't think you 
can say with confidence that formaldehyde increases the antigenicity.  

      Ian York   (iayork at  <>
      "-but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a
       very respectable Man." -Jane Austen, The History of England

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