New research points to more benefits of influenza vaccination in older adults. The study found that adults over 65 who had received at least one flu shot were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease four years later. More research will be needed to confirm the cause-and-effect association and to understand the source of this protective effect.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and it’s thought to be Currently affect more than 5 million Americans. There are lifestyle habits that may reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, such as regular exercise, and there are medications that can help manage its symptoms. But there are no treatments known to significantly prevent or reverse disease progression. However, some research has indicated a Link between some infections and Alzheimer’s disease, which has led to hope that preventing or treating these infections may reduce their incidence or delay its appearance.
In 2020, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Analysis of medical records and found a link Between influenza vaccination and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This time, they turned to a larger database of medical claims and were able to compare the outcomes of nearly one million pairs of adults over 65 across the United States who had or were not vaccinated against the flu. Pairs were matched for factors such as age and They were tracked for an average of 46 months.
During the study period, 8.5% of unvaccinated adults were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or received medications often used to manage it, compared to 5.1% of vaccinated individuals — an approximately 40% lower relative risk. It also appeared to have a cumulative effect, such that people who had consistently vaccinated annually during the study period were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The results were published Online this month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Studies in recent years have indicated that some germs can hide in the brain after infection early in life and direct trigger The development of Alzheimer’s disease, especially herpes viruses. But the authors speculate that the relationship seen in this study is not necessarily unique to influenza. Instead, it has more to do with the relationship between our immune system and the aging brain.
Study author Paul Schulze, MD, director of the Center for Neurocognitive Disorders at McGovern College of Medicine in Utah, in a statement. Instead, we believe that the immune system is complex, and that some alterations, such as pneumonia, may activate it in a way that makes Alzheimer’s disease worse. But other things that activate the immune system may do so in a different way — one that protects against Alzheimer’s disease. “
These types of observational studies can only prove a relationship between two things, and not clearly prove a cause-and-effect relationship between vaccination and Alzheimer’s risk. But other research teams found Similar connection. Of course, vaccines for influenza and other diseases remain effective in preventing severe illness from the germs they target—benefits that tend to be more pronounced for older adults.
It will take time to figure out why vaccines help keep our brain in good shape, but they do a lot of good for us already. For their part, the researchers may then plan to study whether covid-19 vaccines could offer a similar temporary effect against dementia.
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