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Childhood vaccination may protect adult eyes
Date:9/19/2007

Childhood vaccination for the rubella virus may have also almost entirely eliminated an inflammatory eye disease from the U.S.-born population, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The study is published in the September issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

Fuchs heterochromic iridocyclitis, or FHI, is a chronic inflammatory disease of the eye that causes cataract and glaucoma and can lead to blindness. There is no effective treatment.

"We don't know what causes FHI," says Dr. Debra Goldstein, associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at UIC. "But we were seeing changes in the incidence of the disease and in the makeup of the patient population with the disease -- fewer American-born FHI patients, and those we did see were older."

Although not able to establish the cause of FHI, earlier studies had found antibodies for rubella in the eyes of patients with FHI, suggesting that the rubella virus might be involved. The UIC researchers looked for epidemiological evidence that might link childhood vaccination for rubella, commonly known as German measles, with the decrease in the incidence of FHI they had observed.

"We hypothesized that if there was a relationship between rubella and FHI, then the proportion of FHI cases we were seeing at UIC would decrease after the institution of the national rubella vaccination program and that an increasing percentage of the FHI cases would be in patients coming from countries without a vaccination program," Goldstein said.

Patients with FHI and two other types of inflammatory eye disease who were seen at UIC between 1985 and 2005 were grouped by the decade of their birth to determine whether the percentage with FHI decreased relative to the two other inflammatory eye diseases. The percentage of foreign-born versus U.S.-born patients with FHI and the two control groups was also compared.

For U.S.-bo
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Contact: Jeanne Galatzer-Levy
jgala@uic.edu
312-996-1583
University of Illinois at Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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