Influenza vaccination linked to lower stroke risk

By Steven Reinberg

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Either because influenza vaccination reduces infections or because those who get them are more health conscious, getting a flu vaccination appears to be associated with a reduced risk for stroke, French researchers report in the February issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Since subjects who have viral influenza can develop subsequent infections, we thought that flu vaccination may mean less infection overall and, therefore less stroke," Dr. Pierre Amarenco from Bichat Hospital, Paris, said in a journal statement.

Dr. Amarenco and associates collected data on 90 consecutive patients, 60 years of age and older, hospitalized for stroke during the flu season. They compared these patients with 180 population-based controls.

There were significantly fewer subjects who had a recent influenza vaccination among those who had a stroke than among controls (46.7% versus 59.4%, p = 0.036), the researchers report. This effect was particularly strong among those under 75 years of age.

After adjusting for age, risk factors for stroke and recent antibiotic use, stroke risk was reduced among patients who had been vaccinated in the year of the study (odds ratio 0.50, p = 0.033). Risk was also reduced for those vaccinated during the preceding 5 years (odds ratio 0.42, p = 0.009) compared with those who had not been vaccinated, the French team found.

"These results support the view that infections are important risk factors for stroke as well as heart attack," Dr. Amarenco said. The finding "would be a major advance in stroke prevention if further studies confirm these results," he said.

Dr. Amarenco and colleagues are increasing their study population to 1000 patients and 2000 controls and are hoping to perform a randomized control trial to confirm a protective effect of influenza vaccination against stroke.

Stroke 2002;33:000-000.

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