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Genetic Variations Leads to Fever After Smallpox Vaccination

St. Louis researchers have identified common DNA variations that underlie susceptibility to fever after smallpox vaccination. Most of the eight genetic alterations the scientists identified increased the likelihood of fever after smallpox vaccination. A few, however, reduced fever risk.

The studys results raise the possibility the same genetic variations linked to fever following smallpox vaccination may also influence fever risk after other live-virus vaccines, including the one for measles, mumps and rubella. This so-called MMR vaccine is routinely administered to small children, and fever is a bothersome and common side effect.

Eventually, the authors say, it may be possible to develop a test that predicts which patients are at risk for vaccine-related fevers. Such a test also may help doctors anticipate and prevent more serious complications linked to the vaccines.

Vaccines are extraordinarily safe and effective, but that doesnt mean we cant try to make them even more acceptable by discovering ways to further reduce the chance of adverse events, including minor ones like fever, says the studys lead author, Samuel Stanley Jr., M.D., vice chancellor of research at Washington University and a professor of medicine and microbiology.

Routine smallpox vaccinations in the United States were halted in 1972, when the disease was considered eradicated in this country, but the U.S. military and other high-risk groups, including some healthcare workers, continue to get the vaccine.

It is made with a live but weakened vaccinia virus that provides immunity against smallpox but which can cause complications ranging from fever and fatigue to more serious illness. About 15 percent of those being vaccinated for smallpox for the first time develop a fever over 99 degrees.

Fevers related to vaccines are not considered a serious medical issue, but in rare cases they can lead to more severe complications. Individuals
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