Could Food Additives Be Impairing the Effectiveness of Vaccines? And could there be alternative methods to boost the immune system?

Research has been done in mice that suggest that the food additive tBHQ found in many common products from frozen meat to crackers and fried foods can interfere with the immune response in the body. This was especially seen in people when fighting the flu. this effect increasing the severity of the flu symptoms and tBHQ exposure could reduce the effectiveness of the flu vaccine through its effects on T cells; a vital part of immune system.


Scientists at Michigan State University have found a link between a common food preservative to an altered immune response that possibly hinders flu vaccines. TBHQ is found in several food products including cooking oils, frozen meat, and processed foods like chips and crackers. Unfortunately, it could be in many other products as it is not always included on ingredient lists. The problem comes because the purpose of vaccines is to teach the immune system what to look out for and then attack. In this study, the introduction of tBHQ into the diet caused a reduction of CD4 T cells and CD8 T cells. The CD4 T cells are the ones that tell everyone else what to do and the CD8 T cells are the ones that do what the CD4 T cells tell them to. A reduction in both of these can result in the vaccine (whatever one) to be less effective. In addition, when a different strain was introduced there was a hindrance in the immune system’s ability to remember how to fight it. They also found a significant increase in mucus production in infected mice that were given tBHQ additive. After all, that is what vaccines are for-to spur the memory of the infection and produce immunity. Their study of the tBHQ additive seems to impair this process (Michigan State University, 2019).

Present Information
This report is part of the Social Science in Epidemics series. Past outbreaks are reviewed in order to identify places where interventions and preparedness activities. It also focused on recent influenza epidemics and the SARS epidemic. Influenza A viruses are widespread, found it large numbers of mammals and birds with some subtypes circulate between humans causing seasonal epidemics and outbreaks. Identifying how different substances can influence influenza outbreaks is important. Like most viruses, it mutates slightly after repeated successful replications. Sometimes this can result in larger genetic changes. This is also why there needs to be further research into what can be the cause of non-effectiveness of the vaccine given to patients. One place that is currently being investigated concerns what items are found in our food; preservatives or flavor enhancers (Ripoll & Wilkinson, 2019).

Current Promising Studies
Innate immunity is the first line of defense against almost any substance that threatens the body. Poor environmental factors, such as malnutrition, stress, and wake/sleep disorders may cause innate immune system deficiencies. Functional nutrient studies indicate a positive correlation between the innate immune system and health. Fucoidan was extracted and purified from edible brown seaweed. In times before 1950s seaweeds were used as traditional folk medicines. Compounds such as Fucoidan, alginate, and laminarin have been investigated from this brown seaweed. Mycoplasma pneumonia is one of the most common agents of community-acquired pneumonia in otherwise healthy people. The research found that Fucoidan from brown seaweed helped to reduce disease progression and enhanced immune response to protect this type of pneumonia. The results of this study provided evidence that Fucoidan could increase splenocyte proliferation and phagocytic activity. It is hoped this could be used as a natural food supplement in order to enhance immune responses (Hwang et al, 2019).

Influenza can cause recurrent seasonal epidemics to humans. There are vaccines and antiviral therapy but often has limited success. In this study, the use of two strains of lactobacillus against seasonal and avian influenza viruses is investigated. And while the testing was done on mice, the outcome was promising. Given the continuous threats of influenza that have caused reoccurring human seasonal influenza effective medical arsenals should be prepared for protection. Due to the unending changing of the viral genotype and phenotypes the quest for reliable new medical countermeasure has intensified. This study showed that there are some probiotics that will help with fighting influenza. In the study it increased the survival of the infected mice by 83.3%. That is significant in showing researchers were on the right track. The researchers do acknowledge that they don’t have direct evidence of the mechanisms of action of the way these tow strains of lactobacillus probiotics work against influenza. In a case, they feel this can point the way for another approach to fighting influenza in all of its forms (Bae et al, 2018).

Influenza A virus is a common and seasonal pathogen of respiratory disease. Influenza A virus-induced seasonal epidemics are associated with high morbidity and high mortality. And because vaccines given each year are only effective against the known circulating strains, other means of combating influenza is needed. Viruses mutate and this could lead to currently available antivirals being ineffective due to resistance formation in the targeted virus. One approach to fill in this gap is when resistance makes antiviral to stop working is developing drugs that target host cell factors required for replication. The study found itraconazole and posaconazole both impair the early step in influenza A virus infection cycle. This use of antifungals reduced mortality in mice with a 70% survival. And this correlated with diminished body weight loss during the course of the influenza A virus infection. Of the two antifungals used in the study, itraconazole showed more of an antiviral effect in the cell cultures and lower viral titers in the lungs, one of the key organs affected by influenza A virus. Very few antifungal drugs are currently licensed and available for the treatment of influenza. Acquisition of resistance of these medications as well as new developing strains has led to research for novel solutions. To this end researchers are targeting the interaction between the host cell and the viruses are increasingly being looked at (Schloer et al, 2019).

Viral influenza infection causes serious health issues especially when an outbreak occurs. And even though vaccines are available and manufactured each year to modify it to fight the expected mutation, the results are still far from satisfactory. Thus studies are being done to support the immune system to protect against viral flu infections is essential. This study made a mixture of water-soluble substances. They were pomegranate, red grape, dates, olive fruit, figs, and ginger extracts. This mix was then tested for the production of specific cytokines in mice. The concoction was orally given for one week following a single vaccine injection or for two weeks after a double injection of a vaccine was given. In both cases, there were significantly higher titers of HAI antibodies. It is the conclusion of the study that the concoction reinforced the protective immune parameters against the flu infection (Monsoor et al, 2018).


Work Cited
Bae, J-Y. et al. (2018). Effects of Lactobacillus plantarum and lenconcostoc mesentaeroides probiotics on human seasonal and aviary influenza viruses. Journal of Microbiology Biotechnology, 28(6).

Hwang, P-A. et al. (2019). Dietary supplementation with low-molecular-weight fucoidan enhances innate and adaptive immune responses and protects against mycoplasma pneumonia antigen stimulation. Marine Drugs, 17(3).

Mansoor, K. A. et al. (2018). A functional food mixture ‘protector’ reinforces the protective immune parameters against viral flu infection in mice. Nutrients.

Michigan State University. (2019). Food additive may influence how well flu vaccines work. Michigan State University.

Newswise. (2019). Common food additive may weaken defenses against influenza. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Article 710400. Newswise, Inc.

Ripoll, S. & Wilkinson, A. (2019). Social science in epidemics: Influenza and SARS lessons learned. Social Science in Humanitarian Action.

Schloer,S. et al. (2019). The clinically licensed antifungal drug itraconazole inhibits influenza virus in vitro and in vivo. Emerging Microbes and Infections, 8(1).


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