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J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Nov;117(5):1144-50.

Influence of ultraviolet B exposure on immune responses following hepatitis B vaccination in human volunteers.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Exposure to ultraviolet radiation can modulate immune responses in animal and humans. Remarkably, the ultraviolet-induced immunosuppression is not restricted to the exposed skin but is also found at other body sites, i.e., systemic immunosuppression. Effects of ultraviolet radiation on infections cannot be determined by experimentation on humans, but the effects of ultraviolet on vaccination may serve as a model. Moreover, it is important in its own right to assess whether ultraviolet radiation affects vaccination responses. In this study the effect of ultraviolet B exposure on the development of immune responses after hepatitis B vaccination in human volunteers was investigated. To this end, 191 human volunteers were vaccinated against hepatitis B with the Engerix-B vaccine. Ninety-seven of them were prior to the first vaccination exposed to ultraviolet B on 5 consecutive days with one personal minimal erythema dose per day. At several time-points before and after the ultraviolet B exposure regimen and the vaccination, blood samples were taken. Parameters for specific as well as nonspecific cellular and humoral immunity were analyzed. It was demonstrated that ultraviolet B exposure prior to hepatitis B vaccination did not alter the cellular (lymphocyte stimulation test) nor the humoral (antibody titers) immune response against hepatitis B surface antigen significantly. In contrast, contact hypersensitivity to diphenylcyclopropenone was significantly suppressed after ultraviolet B exposure, as was natural killer cell activity. These latter results confirm earlier findings and demonstrate immunosuppressive effectiveness of the ultraviolet regimen. In summary, although natural killer cell activity and contact hypersensitivity responses were suppressed, the ultraviolet B radiation protocol did not alter the humoral nor the cellular immune responses against hepatitis B surface antigen after vaccination.

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