The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new drug for people who have been exposed to measles and hepatitis A viruses. This could be especially good news for older adults who are more likely to suffer from weakened immune systems and thus have more difficulty fighting off infections.
“Vaccination, while a valuable option for hepatitis A and measles post-exposure prophylaxis, may take several weeks to take effect as your immune system works to build the antibodies it needs to fight these viruses,” said Stephen Scholand, M.D., infectious disease specialist at MidState Medical Center, said in a statement. “Immune globulins such as GamaSTAN® have been a valuable treatment option for many decades because they offer immediate and rapid protection with antibodies that fight infection.”
The CDC recommends an immune globulin for HAV post-exposure treatment for people over 40, the company said. “The CDC also recommends that immune globulin should be used for children aged less than 12 months, immunocompromised persons, persons with chronic liver disease and persons who are allergic to the vaccine or a vaccine component. When administered within 2 weeks after exposure to HAV, immune globulin is 80 to 90 percent effective in preventing hepatitis A infection.”
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), immune globulin treats immune system problems and helps prevent infections or lessens their severity. It contains antibodies that strengthen the immune system. Immune globulin injection belongs to a group of medicines known as immunizing agents. It can also treat disorders that involve the muscle and nervous systems.
In addition to HAV and measles, GamaSTAN® is also approved for rubella and varicella post-exposure treatment. It is not indicated for routine prevention or treatment of viral hepatitis type B, rubella, poliomyelitis, mumps or varicella, the company says.
GamaSTAN® is given only by or under the supervision of a doctor.
The company said the new formulation is manufactured using a caprylate chromatography process in accord with the highest quality and safety standards.
The company warns that thrombosis could occur with immune globulin products, including GamaSTAN® and that risk factors include advanced age, prolonged immobilization, hypercoagulable conditions, history of venous or arterial thrombosis, use of estrogens, indwelling central vascular catheters, hyperviscosity and cardiovascular risk factors.
According to an NCBI article, exposure to HAV in unprotected adults “may cause severe and serious symptoms, with risk of both morbidity and mortality increasing with age.”
Vaccines are especially important for older adults, according to vaccines.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), especially those with ongoing health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. “As you get older, your immune system weakens and it can be more difficult to fight off infections. You’re more likely to get diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and shingles — and to have complications that can lead to long-term illness, hospitalization, and even death.”
The HHS offers a checklist of vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for adults age 65 and older.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2016, adopted the first Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, 2016-2021 highlighting its vision of eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health problem.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease caused by HAV. Spread when an uninfected (and unvaccinated) person ingests food or water that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person, the disease is closely associated with unsafe water or food, inadequate sanitation and poor personal hygiene. “Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A infection does not cause chronic liver disease and is rarely fatal, but it can cause debilitating symptoms and fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure), which is often fatal,” according to the WHO.
Symptoms of HAV can include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine and jaundice. The WHO maintains that the severity of disease and fatal outcomes are higher in older people.