Can The Flu Vaccine Protect Against Dementia
New research suggests that routine vaccinations could be added to the list of interventions that may prevent dementia. Influenza and pneumonia are leading causes of death in the United States, especially amongst the elderly. In addition to reducing infection-related mortality, there is evidence that vaccines against pneumonia and the flu may also reduce the risk for developing dementia.
In a study examining the medical records of 9,066 adults over age 60, getting a flu vaccine was associated with a 17% reduction in risk for Alzheimers disease . Those who got their first flu shot at a younger age, and received the annual vaccine on a regular basis had the most protective benefit. A separate study including 5,146 adults over age 65 found that vaccination against pneumonia before age 75 reduced the risk for Alzheimers disease between 25% to 40%, depending on the presence of genetic risk factors . Individuals without the risk genes showed the greatest benefit from vaccination in terms of Alzheimers disease prevention.
Severe infection can result in an inflammatory response that primes the immune cells in the brain toward a state that makes the brain less resilient and more vulnerable to damage from future stress . There is also evidence that some infection-causing viruses and bacteria can get into brain cells, where they may cause further harm .
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We Need More Research
Health experts hope to see more studies examining how vaccines can be used to prevent Alzheimers disease.
Scientists are just beginning to identify the link between vaccinations and cognitive health, and there are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered.
More research needs to be done to see if there is a direct mechanism between the vaccine, influenza, and reduction of the incidence of Alzheimers disease, Mintz said.
Kaiser would like to see more research digging into the underlying causes, pathways, and targets of Alzheimers disease so we can keep our brains healthy and prevent neurodegeneration.
This is an area we must better understand to better prepare for whats to come, Kaiser said.
More Evidence The Flu Vaccine May Guard Against Alzheimer’s
A new study provides more evidence that influenza vaccination may help protect older adults against Alzheimer’s disease .
In a large propensity-matched cohort of older adults, those who had received at least one influenza inoculation were 40% less likely than unvaccinated peers to develop AD over the course of 4 years.
“Influenza infection can cause serious health complications, particularly in adults 65 and older. Our study’s findings that vaccination against the flu virus may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia for at least a few years adds to the already compelling reasons get the flu vaccine annually,” Avram Bukhbinder, MD, with McGovern Medical School at the UTHealth, Houston, Texas, told Medscape Medical News.
As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, the new findings support earlier work by the same researchers that also suggested a protective effect of flu vaccination on dementia risk.
The latest study was June 13 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
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How Vaccines Might Reduce The Risk Of Alzheimers
It isnt clear why the flu vaccine resulted in such a substantial reduction in risk for developing Alzheimers. In the study, the authors hypothesize that the vaccine might also train the immune system to respond to beta-amyloid protein plaques a key part of Alzheimers pathology.
Since there is evidence that several vaccines may protect from Alzheimers disease, we are thinking that it isnt a specific effect of the flu vaccine, Schulz said.
In the brain, there is a complex interplay between cells called astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes which modulates the level of inflammation. Many antibody-based drugs in development for treating Alzheimers stimulate the immune system to clear away beta-amyloid plaques. Similarly, the flu vaccine might just activate these immune cells in a helpful way, clearing beta-amyloid plaques, he explained.
Some alterations, such as pneumonia, may activate it in a way that makes Alzheimers disease worse, he added. But other things that activate the immune system may do so in a different way one that protects from Alzheimers disease.
Are There Other Benefits To Getting A Flu Shot
In addition to possibly lowering the risk of Alzheimers, getting an annual flu shot also has other health benefits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , getting yearly flu vaccines may:
- Reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization.
- Reduce hospitalizations in people with diabetes and chronic lung disease.
- Reduce the risk of flu-related chronic lung disease.
Despite these benefits, only about half of Americans get an annual flu shot.
More research is needed to determine the exact role vaccines play in preventing Alzheimers and other chronic illnesses, but the benefits of getting an annual flu shot continue to grow. On June 30, the CDC recommended a specific, higher dose flu vaccine for those 65 and older. Older adults are encouraged to talk with their doctors and get vaccinated for the flu to increase their chances of staying healthy.
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It May Not Just Be Flu Shots That Offer Some Protection Against Alzheimer’s Disease
In their conclusion, the researchers cited previous studies which had found a connection between receiving vaccines for other ailments such as tetanus, herpes, polio, and others with a decreased risk of developing dementia. Bukhbinder said he hoped to use mounting follow-up data from COVID-19 vaccines to see if the same association exists with that shot.
“Since there is evidence that several vaccines may protect from Alzheimer’s disease, we are thinking that it isn’t a specific effect of the flu vaccine,” Paul. E. Schulz, MD, the study’s senior author, said in a press release.
“Instead, we believe that the immune system is complex, and 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 wayone that protects from Alzheimer’s disease. Clearly, we have more to learn about how the immune system worsens or improves outcomes in this disease.”
What This Study Can Tell Us About The Future Of Alzheimers Research
The study shows how we can use our collected medical information to find clues about Alzheimer’s and other disease states.
We must use the information gleaned from big data with care and follow-up with rigorous, controlled prospective studies, as much as possible and ethical, to get more definitive answers and to uncover true cause-and-effect relationships, mechanisms, and possible new prevention/treatment approaches, Dr. Reiss states.
Understanding the role of the immune system in AD has now become very important in a way that we didnt anticipate, says Dr. Schulz. Understanding how the flu vaccine reduces the risk for AD by a large amount has also moved way up on our priority list. We dont have anything else that reduces the risk for AD by 40%. Capitalizing on this finding is essential.
Dr. Schulz and his research team have started investigating other vaccination effects now to see if others work and to see if combining the influenza vaccination with the shingles ones or the pneumonia ones leads to even greater risk reduction for AD.
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Risk Of Alzheimers Disease Following Influenza Vaccination: A Claims
Article type: Research Article
Authors: Bukhbinder, Avram S.a 1 * | Ling, Yaobinb 1 | Hasan, Omar1 | Jiang, Xiaoqianb | Kim, Yejinb | Phelps, Kamal N.a | Schmandt, Rosemarie E.a | Amran, Alberta | Coburn, Ryana | Ramesh, Srivathsana | Xiao, Qianc | Schulz, Paul E.a
Affiliations: John P. and Katherine G. McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, Houston, TX, USA | UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics, Houston, TX, USA | UTHealth School of Public Health, Houston, TX, USA
Correspondence: Correspondence to: Avram S. Bukhbinder, 1941 East Rd Suite 4358, Houston, TX 77054, USA. Tel.: +1 210 818 7673 E-mails: , .
Note: These authors contributed equally to this work.
Keywords: Alzheimers disease, cohort studies, incidence, influenza vaccines, pharmacoepidemiology, retrospective studies, vaccination
Journal: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vol. 88, no. 3, pp. 1061-1074, 2022
Vaccines Protect Against Cognitive Decline
The first study, which came out of the University of Texas, set out to understand if vaccinations provide some degree of protection against Alzheimers.
The researchers looked at the health records of over 9,000 people aged 60 and older and found that people who received one flu vaccination had a 17 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimers. Those who got two or more flu shots had an additional 13 percent lower risk.
The second study was conducted by researchers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina. They looked at the health records of over 5,000 people ages 65 and up and found that people who got a pneumonia vaccine before age 75 were about 2530 percent less likely to develop Alzheimers.
According to the researchers, the findings suggest the pneumococcal vaccine may be a promising Alzheimers prevention tool.
A third study presented at the conference spoke to the value of vaccines in people with dementia.
Looking at the health data of over 1.4 million people, researchers from Denmark found that people with dementia who were hospitalized with an infection were 6.5 times more likely to die compared to people who didnt have an infection or dementia.
That heightened risk of mortality among people with dementia existed in both the short term, within 30 days of contracting an infection, and the long term, or about 10 years after the first infection.
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Understanding The Immune System And Alzheimers Disease
Study authors also note that the immune system is complex, and certain health conditions, like pneumonia, may affect it in a way that worsens Alzheimer’s. However, other factors that affect the immune system may, in fact, help protect people against this neurocognitive disorder.
We know from seeing Alzheimer’s patients every day that many things that activate the immune system make them worse. Urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and a broken bone are common examples, says Dr. Paul E. Schulz, a neurologist with UTHealth Houston. After an AD patient recovers from them, they may get back to their baseline thinking state, or they may not.
As a result of these observations with AD patients, Dr. Schulz says he is leery about his patients undergoing surgery and tells them it’s better to get a flu vaccine than not since the flu can be deadly as we get older.
However, Dr. Schulz explained that initially, he thought that the inflammation caused by vaccination could, in theory, also make them worse. Just like pneumonia. I was very surprised to find that the influenza vaccination helps reduce the risk for AD instead of enhancing it, he says. From this result, we surmise that some factors can turn on the immune system in a way that is potentially deleterious to our AD patients, as we have seen with infections.
It will be important now to try to understand those differences.
Your Flu Shot May Reduce Your Risk Of Alzheimers Disease By 40% Study Shows
A new study has shown a link between the flu vaccine and a reduced risk for Alzheimers disease.
The study shows people with one flu shot over four years were 40% less likely to develop Alzheimers than those who were not vaccinated.
Scientists believe more research is needed before coming to a final conclusion.
Your flu shot might do more than protect you from the influenza virus. A new study is causing a stir in the neuroscience world, showing a link between the flu vaccine and a reduced risk of Alzheimers disease.
According to the study from UTHealth Houston, people who received at least one influenza vaccine were 40% less likely than their non-vaccinated peers to develop Alzheimers disease over the course of four years.
Alzheimers is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Alzheimers is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimers disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 6.5 million people of all ages have Alzheimers disease in the United States, with the number of affected individuals growing due to the nations aging population. The number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040.
Currently, only about 50% of adults in the U.S. get the flu vaccine each season.
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Study: Flu Shots May Reduce The Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Heather Mercer is native to Northwest Ohio and graduated from Loma Linda University with two doctorate degrees . She is currently a professor at Owens Community College, as well as a fact-checker for Verywell Health. She has gained experience in a variety of settings, ranging from corporate wellness and preventive medicine, to mental health, chronic disease, and end-of-life care.
Other Vaccinations Are Tied To Lower Dementia Risk
Several types of vaccinations including those for tetanus, polio, herpes, and influenza have been linked to a decreased risk of dementia before, the study team pointed out.
An open question is whether the COVID-19 vaccine, too, might be linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimers disease, Bukhbinder said.
More research is needed to determine the impact of vaccinations on people who have already been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease.
Future research should also assess whether flu vaccination is also associated with the rate of symptom progression in patients who already have Alzheimers dementia, Bukhbinder said.
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Flu Shots Linked To 40
HOUSTON You dont have to look very far to hear all about supposedly negative side-effects tied to various vaccines. Now, researchers from UTHealth Houston are flipping the script. Their report reveals that the flu vaccine may offer a very attractive side-effect protection against dementia.
The study finds individuals who received at least one influenza vaccine were 40 percent less likely than non-vaccinated people to develop Alzheimers disease over the course of a four-year span. To reach this finding, researchers compared Alzheimers risk among patients vaccinated against the flu and those who had not. A large, nationwide group of Americans older than 65 took part in the study.
We found that flu vaccination in older adults reduces the risk of developing Alzheimers disease for several years. The strength of this protective effect increased with the number of years that a person received an annual flu vaccine in other words, the rate of developing Alzheimers was lowest among those who consistently received the flu vaccine every year, says first author Avram S. Bukhbinder, MD, a recent alumnus of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, in a university release. Future research should assess whether flu vaccination is also associated with the rate of symptom progression in patients who already have Alzheimers dementia.
Alzheimer’s Expert Weighs In
Offering perspective on the study, Heather M. Snyder, PhD, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association, said this study “suggests that flu vaccination may be valuable for maintaining cognition and memory as we age. This is even more relevant today in the COVID-19 environment.
“It is too early to tell if getting flu vaccine, on its own, can reduce risk of Alzheimer’s. More research is needed to understand the biological mechanisms behind the results in this study,” Snyder told Medscape Medical News.
“For example, it is possible that people who are getting vaccinated also take better care of their health in other ways, and these things add up to lower risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” she noted.
“It is also possible that there are issues related to unequal access and/or vaccine hesitancy and how this may influence the study population and the research results,” Snyder said.
The study had no specific funding. Bukhbinder and Snyder have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
J Alz Dement. Published online June 13, 2022. Full text
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Whats In The Shot That Blocks Alzheimers
This work is actually a continuation of earlier research by UTHealth Houston researchers from 2020 that noted a possible link between the flu vaccine and a lower Alzheimers risk. This time around, study authors used a much larger dataset encompassing 935,887 flu-vaccinated patients and 935,887 non-vaccinated patients.
Then, over the next four years, roughly 5.1 percent of the vaccinated participants went on to develop Alzheimers. In comparison, 8.5 percent of the non-vaccinated patients also developed Alzheimers.
While study authors say its clear that there is some type of protective effect coming from the flu vaccine related to dementia, they cant explain what is happening here without conducting further research.
Since there is evidence that several vaccines may protect from Alzheimers disease, we are thinking that it isnt a specific effect of the flu vaccine, adds senior author Paul E. Schulz, MD, the Rick McCord Professor in Neurology at McGovern Medical School. Instead, we believe that the immune system is complex, and some alterations, such as pneumonia, may activate it in a way that makes Alzheimers disease worse. But other things that activate the immune system may do so in a different way one that protects from Alzheimers disease. Clearly, we have more to learn about how the immune system worsens or improves outcomes in this disease.
The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease.