LONDON Aug 7 Scientists who believed they had
started to decipher links between a GlaxoSmithKline H1N1
pandemic flu vaccine and the sleep disorder narcolepsy have
retracted a study after saying they cannot replicate their
The paper, originally published in the journal Science
Translational Medicine in December 2013, suggested narcolepsy
can sometimes be triggered by a scientific phenomenon known as
"molecular mimicry", offering a possible explanation for its
link to GSK's "swine flu" vaccine, Pandemrix.
The results appeared to show that the debilitating disorder,
characterized by sudden sleepiness and muscle weakness, could be
set off by an immune response to a portion of a protein from the
H1N1 flu virus that is very similar to a region of a protein
called hypocretin, which is key to narcolepsy.
But in a statement issued last week, the journal said the
researchers, led by Emmanuel Mignot, a professor of psychiatry
and behavioural sciences at Stanford University, had asked that
the paper be retracted "because they were unable to replicate
some of the results reported in the paper".
GSK, which has been funding Mignot's research into links
between the vaccine and narcolepsy, said in a statement it
believed "the original scientific hypothesis remains a valid one
that needs to be further explored".
"We will continue to support Professor Mignot and his
colleagues with their continued research in this area and hope
these ongoing efforts will enable us to provide more answers,"
the British drugmaker said.
Previous studies in countries where GSK's Pandemrix vaccine
was used in the 2009/2010 flu pandemic - including in Britain,
Finland, Sweden and Ireland - found its use was linked to a
significant rise in cases of narcolepsy in children.
Narcolepsy is thought to be brought about by loss of
function in "wakefulness" cells called hypocretin cells in one
of the brain's sleep centres.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)