New research led by Dr. Michael Irwin at the University of California, Los Angeles has found a connection between untreated depression in older adults and decreased effectiveness of the shingles, or herpes zoster, vaccine. The two-year study reveals that depressed patients who did not receive treatment with antidepressants had lower cell-mediated immunity to the varicella-zoster virus than patients who were not depressed or who were depressed but were receiving treatment with antidepressants. The results suggest these depressed patients were “poorly protected by shingles vaccination,” says Dr. Irwin. Treating depression appeared to “normalize the immune response to the zoster vaccine.” The findings, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, are potentially significant in that treatment with antidepressants may have a similar effect on the immune response of depressed patients to other important vaccines, such as those for influenza.
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