Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that occurs in children and adults and causes them to lose sleep. Narcolepsy has a range of symptoms namely, excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep paralysis, obesity, fragmented nighttime sleep and disturbed vigilance (from ISDM-3; international sleep disorder manual 3rd edition).
Prevalence rates of narcolepsy has links to other disorders such as ALS, MS and Parkinson's. Narcolepsy most often sets on during puberty (around age 15), but there is another peak at age 36 where a lot of people begin to show symptoms of Narcolepsy. It is unusual to develop narcolepsy after the age of 45. It is currently unknown why most people develop the symptoms either at 15 or 36 years of Age.
Here a graph of the Age of Onset for France (left) and Canada (right).
Dauvilliers et al. Neurology 2001; 57: 2029-2033.
Here, another graph for the USA
Hypocretin also known as Orexin is a fairly newly discovered neurotransmitter. Orexin plays a role in the development of narcolepsy. Therefore it is possible to call Narcolepsy a psychopathology instead of a disorder. The specific pathophysiology of Narcolepsy is signaled by the loss of the neurons in the lateral hypothalamus that produce Orexin. Once these neurons are destroyed the patient shows signs of narcolepsy.
The psychopathology (disease) of narcolepsy is symbolized by a loss of balance between the sleep and wake state of the brain. Sleep is regulated by a variety of brain areas (not all of them may be known), but for now we know that:
- locus caeruleus (synthesizes noadrenaline)
- nucleus raphes posterior (synthesizes serotonin)
- nucleus tuberomammillaris (synthesizes histamine)
- lateral hyphothalamus (synthesizes orexin)
- ventrolaterale pre-optische nucleus (synthesizes GABA)
Note: Dopamine also plays are role in sleep. Additionally, we may not know all neurotransmitters that are involved in sleep. It is possible that we have not even discovered all neurotransmitters.
Primarily the nucleus raphes posterior, locus caeruleus and the nucleus tuberomammillaris are involved in the wake state. While the ventrolateral pre-optic nucleus is involved in the sleep state. The presence of the neurotransmitters that are synthesized by these brain areas determine if we feel wakeful or tired. For example, the release of GABA is associated with sleep because GABA is a neurotransmitter that inhibits activity of noadrenaline, serotonin and histamine.
Source: Fronczek et. al NTVG 2006
This makes the treatment of Narcolepsy with medication difficult because if one uses medication to keep the patient awake then it will be even harder for the patient to fall asleep at night. However, if you administer medication that helps the patient sleep then the patient will have even more problems to stay awake during the day.
Though you can fix the sleep / wake system on one particular state (either sleep or wake) by manipulating the neurotransmitters associated to wakefulness or sleepiness via medication it is not a long term solution and is very unlikely to work for Narcolepsy patients (especially long term).
The link the vaccination
Now that you have this background on the condition of Narcolepsy, let me elaborate on the possible link to vaccines.
Narcolepsy has a very strong genetic association to the immune system. Specifically a human lymphocyte antigen.
This has lead to the theory that Narcolepsy is an auto-immune disease.
Source: Mignot et al. Sleep. 1997;20:1012.
For example, 90% of patients who have Narcolepsy with Cataplexy possess the HLA-DQB1*06:02 gene.
Narcolepsy is strongly associated with the T-cell receptor alpha locus, a research finding that was also reported in Nature.
Source: Hallmayer et al, nature genetics 2009
The association is strongest for Caucasians with an R^2 of 0.96.
An additional study found that the prevalence of narcolepsy went up tremendously after a new type of vaccine was introduced in Europe. This led some researchers to make an association between auto-immunity, vaccination and narcolepsy.
Source: Narcolepsy and hypersomnia in Norwegian children and young adults following the influenza A(H1N1) 2009 pandemic
However, the auto-immunity theory was never proven. Therefore, the Dutch government decided to not pay out victims of a possible vaccine injury.
Overeem, Fronczek et al, J Neuroimm 2006
However, some Scandinavian governments (Norway, Sweden) have awarded money to parents who successfully claimed vaccine injury in civil court using a Norwegian study which states:
The study confirms an increased HR of narcolepsy following pandemic vaccination. Slightly increased HRs of narcolepsy and hypersomnia are also seen after influenza infection. However, the role of infection should be viewed with caution due to underreporting of influenza.
Source: Source: Narcolepsy and hypersomnia in Norwegian children and young adults following the influenza A(H1N1) 2009 pandemic
The reason why Narcolepsy and the vaccine were connected was a narcolepsy pandemic one year after a school wide forced vaccination in European countries against the influenza virus (the common flu). Vaccination against the flu is obviously a horseshit idea and a waste of tax payer money, but is it also a potential cause for narcolepsy?
I'll let you be the judge.
The prevalence of narcolepsy increased from about 1% of the population in 2009 (this was called a narcolepsy pandemic) to over 2% in 2010 following the vaccination in some European countries after a school wide vaccination against the influenza virus.
Some people believe that the vaccination caused the disease which can be summed up as follows:
The influenza virus has the ability to infect brain cells that produce Orexin in the lateral hypothalamus. The influenza vaccine has the ability to alter the brain cells so that they do not get infected by influenza anymore. The cells are immunized against the disease. However, the alteration of the cells causes auto immunity in people who posses the HLA-DQB1*06:02 gene, possibly because this strain of the human HLA gene recognizes the vaccine as a virus and therefore proceeds to destroy all immunized neurons. The destruction of the neurons leads to a diseased brain that can no longer produce sufficient amounts of Orexin to function, Narcolepsy develops.
I have some lecture slides on this by a professor from the University of Leiden if you want to take a look at them.
(more data, more graphs, more references)
I can provide you with further references and papers if you give me an email address. The research is publicly funded and available online if you have a subscription to scientific journals you can read the entire article, otherwise you are confined to abstracts.