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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 19:08 GMT
Flu jabs cut stroke risk
Brain
Strokes are caused by reduced blood flow to the brain
Having a flu jab may have a second benefit - protecting against strokes.

A team of French scientists found that people who were vaccinated against flu were 40% less likely to have a stroke.

The effect was particularly pronounced in people younger than 75.


These results support the view that infections are important risk factors for stroke

Dr Pierre Amarenco
Researcher Dr Pierre Amarenco, from Bichat Hospital in Paris, said if the results were confirmed it would mark a "major advance in stroke prevention".

Prior research has shown that infections are associated with strokes and heart attacks.

On theory is that they destabilise fatty deposits on the walls of arteries, helping to form clots.

Strokes are caused by clots blocking blood flow to the brain.

Volunteers

A total of 270 people took part in the study. They included 90 patients aged 60 and older who were admitted to a clinic for treatment following a stroke.

For each stroke survivor, two matched individuals with no history of stroke were interviewed.

The researchers found that volunteers who had a 'flu jab during the year of the study and those vaccinated over the past five years had a significantly reduced stroke risk.

Individuals aged over 75 were less likely to feel the benefit.

Dr Amarenco said: "These results support the view that infections are important risk factors for stroke as well as heart attacks."

Immune response

The authors suggest that the vaccination may help prevent strokes by an all-over stimulation of the immune system.

The team now hopes to increase the size of the study to 1,000 patients and 2,000 control subjects.

Eoin Redahan, of the UK Stroke Association, told BBC News Online: "This is an interesting study.

"There is a theory that infections can contribute to a risk factor for stroke. In fact the Stroke Association is currently funding some research in this area.

"Certainly this research does seem to strengthen the arguments that infections are a risk factor but we do need larger studies to confirm the connection and also to figure out what exactly is happening."

The research is published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

See also:

15 Jan 02 | Health
Scan 'could prevent stroke'
11 Jan 02 | Health
Aspirin 'could save thousands'
05 Sep 01 | Health
Stroke prevention - for 50p a day
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