Varicella Zoster Virus-Specific Immune Responses to a Herpes Zoster Vaccine in Elderly Recipients With Major Depression and the Impact of Antidepressant Medications
Background: The Depression Substudy of the Shingles Prevention Study (SPS) was designed to evaluate the association between major depression and immune responses to a high-titer live attenuated varicella zoster virus (VZV) vaccine (zoster vaccine), which boosts cell-mediated immunity (CMI) to VZV and decreases the incidence and severity of herpes zoster (HZ). The Depression Substudy was a 2-year longitudinal cohort study in 92 community-dwelling adults≥60 years of age who were enrolled in the SPS, a large, double-blind, placebo-controlled Veterans Affairs Cooperative zoster vaccine efficacy study. Methods: Forty subjects with major depressive disorder, stratified by use of antidepressant medications, and 52 age- and sex-matched controls with no history of depression or other mental illness had their VZV-CMI measured prior to vaccination with zoster vaccine or placebo and at 6 weeks, 1 year, and 2 years postvaccination. Results: Depressed subjects who were not treated with antidepressant medications had lower levels of VZV-CMI following administration of zoster vaccine than nondepressed controls or depressed subjects receiving antidepressants even when antidepressant medications failed to alter depressive symptom severity (P<.005). Similar results were obtained taking into account the time-varying status of depression and use of antidepressant medications, as well as changes in depressive symptoms, during the postvaccination period. Conclusions: Depressed patients have diminished VZV-CMI responses to zoster vaccine, and treatment with antidepressant medication is associated with normalization of these responses. Because higher levels of VZV-CMI correlate with lower risk and severity of HZ, untreated depression may increase the risk and severity of HZ and reduce the efficacy of zoster vaccine.