Hep B Antibody Production
March 30, 2009 9:49 AM   Subscribe

What factors affect the amount of antibodies you produce after a Hep B immunization shot?

I was looking into becoming a regular blood donor and decided plasma would be a better way to go. Then I found out there is a great need for plasma with hep B antibodies and I just happened to be going through my hep B immunization regimen and thought that would be a great opportunity to give back to veterans and help vaccine production.

I found out that only 25% of people produce enough antibodies to qualify. Other than planning to donate soon after my shot, what other factors affect the amount of antibodies I produce? Is it mostly genetic or are there things I can do to help, such as exercise more or take supplements?
posted by Jenna Roadman to Health & Fitness (3 answers total)
I've forgotten much of my immunology courses, but here are some basics: as long as there is no acute infection, the number of antibodies you produce will be kept to a minimum. The purpose of immunizations is so that your immune system will be able to induce a quick secondary response (i.e. particular antibodies you need) much faster than it would normally take your body, three or so days as opposed to a couple of weeks. I don't think there is a way for you to increase the specific Hep B antibodies you produce other than to expose yourself to the respective antigen on a repeated basis, i.e. the techniques we use for inducing in vivo polyclonal antibody production in bunnies, mice, and goats. Then again, I currently work with organisms that lack immune systems, so my advice might not be very good.

Then again, keep in mind that your immune system is subject to the same rules as any other part of your body: it needs resources (food) in order to keep functioning, so sticking to a healthy, varied diet can't hurt you.
posted by halogen at 10:20 AM on March 30, 2009

Different people have different HLAs. Perhaps your genotype doesn't make as many different antibodies to the antigen epitopes that were injected into you.

OTOH, different people have different expression levels of Toll-like receptors; vaccines are given with an adjuvant (stuff that makes your innate immune system perk up and recognize that something is wrong, which then activates your adaptive immune system to, for example, produce antibodies); some people are more or less reactive to certain adjuvants than others.

There are ways to modulate your antibody production - no gaurauntees, though - but they're not something you want to do to yourself to make an extra couple of bucks.
posted by porpoise at 11:36 AM on March 30, 2009

The comments above are pretty good starts to explaining why some people have higher titers than others to vaccination, but ultimately the reasons why certain people respond more or less to an immunization can often be nebulously drawn down to 'individual genetics'. Beyond HLAs there are hundreds of genes, characterized or not, involved in the function of T cells, B cells, antigen presenting cells, and so on which could have variations that effect the process of generating an antibody. Certain immunodeficiency syndromes have been defined down to problems with specific genes/proteins, but the genetic contribution to the range of what constitutes 'normal' immune function is much less better defined.

As to what you can do, not too much. Maybe avoid being severely physically/emotionally stressed for a long period; cortisol is an immunosuppresant, though I'm not sure how much it would really affect the resulting titer in response to vaccination. Short-term stress just prior to vaccination might actually be helpful. Normal activity and exercise would probably not have an effect.

Aside to porpoise: Alum, the only adjuvant which is widely used in humans, actually has a TLR-independent mechanism of action, working via uric acid/inflammasome activation, more of a Nod-like receptor-type thing.
posted by monocyte at 2:25 PM on March 30, 2009

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