Regimens to suppress immune system function are a double-edged sword, Elizabeth Tracey reports


People who receive organ transplants must go on a regimen of drugs to suppress their immune response and allow the organ to survive and function. Yet when that strategy is working it also leaves people without the ability to respond to vaccines. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins, says a very fine line must be trod.

Segev: In fact transplant patients take immunosuppression for a very good reason, and that is to keep their organs from rejecting. They are at lifelong risk of organ rejection, which we have to mitigate by suppressing their immune system. But like everything else with transplant patients it is a balance. If we over-immunosuppress we put them at risk of infections, we make vaccines not work. If we under-immunosuppress then we put them at risk of rejection.  :29

Segev is currently studying whether stopping immune suppressing medicines and then vaccinating people who’ve had a transplant will enable the vaccine to work and the transplant to continue functioning. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.