Formaldehyde as a fixitive in vaccines

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


In article <4v5ero$722 at dfw-ixnews6.ix.netcom.com>,
Betty Bridges <bcb56 at ix.netcom.com> 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
>vaccination?

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
antigenicity: 

    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
-- 
      Ian York   (iayork at panix.com)  <http://www.panix.com/~iayork/>
      "-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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