African-Americans Respond Better to Rubella Vaccine

Somali Americans develop twice the antibody response to rubella from the current vaccine compared to Caucasians according to a study out last month from the Mayo Clinic. The study took a look at individualized aspects of immune response, and found that Somali-Americans and African-Americans experienced a significantly greater immune response to a rubella vaccine when compared to Caucasians and Hispanic-Americans. Hispanic-Americans were in fact found to be the least responsive subset.

“This is fascinating… We don’t know why these groups reacted so differently to the vaccine — that’s a subject for further studies — but this new information will help us as we design the vaccines of the future. It will ultimately change how we practice medicine.”Gregory Poland, M.D., Mayo Clinic vaccinologist and senior author of the study

The study was made up of 1,100 children and young adults from Rochester Minnesota, US, with an additional 1,000 participants aged 18-40 recruited from the U.S. Naval Health Research Center in San Diego. The participants represented a broad cross section of ethinic groups. Researchers also looked at a population of reccent Somali immigrants from the Rochester area as a subset of the population groups.

Researchers correctly predicted that race and ethnicity would play a role in the level of immune response demonstrated. Researchers also predicted a difference between genders, but we’re surprised to find no evidence that this was the case -especially given the widely held belief that women have stronger immune responses compared to men.

“The significance of the findings is that in the future we may be able to create vaccines for specific groups or even individuals based on their genomic and other characteristics…That may mean adjusting doses for some or being able to treat larger populations with the same vaccine if the dosage is less.”Gregory Poland, M.D., Mayo Clinic vaccinologist and senior author of the study

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