Yellow Fever and MS: A Trade-Off?

Multiple sclerosis relapse risk may increase with yellow fever vaccination

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Are you about to travel to Africa? Your doctor might tell you to get some vaccinations. If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you may want to think twice before getting the yellow fever vaccine.

MS patients who get vaccinated for yellow fever may be more likely to have MS relapses, in which symptoms of the disease reappear because of parts of the brain and spinal cord become inflamed.

"Yellow fever vaccine may be risky for MS patients."

While the causes of MS remain a mystery, some research has found links between the disease and viral infections. Because vaccines have small amounts of the viruses they protect against, Mauricio F. Farez, M.D., M.P.H., and Jorge Correale, M.D., from Fundación para la Lucha contra las Enfermedades Neurológicas de la Infancia in Argentina, wanted to see if the yellow fever vaccine would increase the risk of MS relapses.

The researchers found that the risk of relapse was much greater after being vaccinated than before vaccination. Three months after receiving the vaccine, MS patients had more lesions (inflamed parts of the brain and spinal cord) than they did one year before vaccination and 9 months after vaccination.

Even though this study was small (only seven patients with MS), the findings suggest that MS patients should be careful when thinking about getting vaccinated for yellow fever.

Dr. Farez and Dr. Correale recommend that MS patients who are traveling to areas with yellow fever (such as certain parts of South America and Africa) should talk with their doctors to weigh the risks of MS relapses against the risks of being exposed to yellow fever.

To come to these findings, the researchers followed seven patients with a type of MS called relapsing-remitting MS. They counted the number of relapses that the patients had. They also counted the number of new lesions the patients developed.

Their results are published in the Archives of Neurology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 20, 2011
Last Updated:
September 19, 2011