Flu shot to prevent dementia?
The flu vaccine is especially recommended for certain risk groups, such as the chronically ill or the elderly. It is considered one of the best ways to protect yourself from the flu. But it may provide even more health benefits. One study shows that regular flu vaccines significantly reduce the risk of dementia.
The number of people suffering from dementia has also been increasing for years due to increased life expectancy. About 1.6 million people are affected in this country. Neurodegenerative disease is not yet curable. But there are measures to reduce the risk of disease. Probably from flu shots too.
A study of 120,000 US veterans
As the German Neurological Society (DGN) wrote in a press release, a recent study published in the specialist journal “Vaccination” supports an exciting hypothesis: Accordingly, regular flu vaccination may lead to a lower risk of dementia.
A large population of more than 120,000 US veterans (former military personnel) with a mean age of 75.5 (± 7.3) was studied. Only 3.8 percent were women and 91.6 percent were white.
Researchers analyzed the patient’s medical files between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2019. The inclusion criterion was that people included in the analysis had no diagnosis of dementia two years prior to the start of the study and at the time of enrollment. in the working Template.
Median observation time was 80 months
Participants were then divided into groups based on whether and how many times they had the flu shot during the study period. How many people had newly developed dementia was then analyzed (defined by the presence of corresponding ICD-9/ICD-10 codes in patient records).
The effect of variables such as age, ethnicity, gender, family status and insurance status, which are all factors affecting dementia risk, were excluded and the frequency of visits to the doctor was also analyzed to identify a possible “early diagnosis”. reduce “bias”.
The mean observation period was 80 months for the vaccinated and 81 months for the unvaccinated. At this stage, 15,933 study participants developed new dementia.
More than six flu shots
According to experts, the analysis showed that flu vaccine use was associated with a lower risk of dementia. However, the effect only showed up when more than a total of six flu shots were administered during the observation period. In this survey, the risk of dementia was significantly reduced by vaccines by twelve percent (HR: 0.88).
“This effect is not insignificant. With around 330,000 new cases of dementia every year in Germany, regular flu shots could save around 40,000 people from being diagnosed with dementia,” says Professor Dr. Richard Dodel, food.
“However, it should be stressed that this is a retrospective assessment, with a large number of participants and carefully applied, but this is not evidentiary, it may only show an association. There are already several such association studies, not only in flu vaccines, but also in vaccines against diphtheria or tetanus,” says Prof. Dr. dodele
“Experimental studies have also shown a link between vaccines and a lower risk of dementia. Therefore, the hypothesis formed by the current study can also be validated pathophysiologically, surrounded by data from animal experiments,” explains the expert.
Further studies are needed
Simply put, the authors explain it this way: Vaccines cause an increase in the activity of microglia, the “immune cells of the brain,” so to speak. They recognize and break down disease-causing substances and waste products.
Animal experiments have shown that increased microglial activity after vaccination leads to further degradation of beta-amyloid. As explained in the communication, beta-amyloid accumulates in Alzheimer’s disease, precipitates there like a coating between nerve cells and damages nerve cells.
“The basic idea of many Alzheimer’s treatments is to remove beta-amyloid from the body before the protein can damage the brain. If prospective studies now show that repeated flu vaccines have exactly this effect and break down beta amyloid, that would be a breakthrough for the treatment of dementia,” explains Prof. Dodel.
“Available data indicate this, but it is not yet conclusive. The observed positive effect of vaccines on the risk of dementia may ultimately also be due to the fact that people who are regularly vaccinated live healthier lives and therefore have a lower risk of disease. Therefore, we now need further, prospective studies to clearly clarify the relationship, ”says the expert.
“There is currently a lot of discussion about the potential risks of vaccines in general, but especially about vaccination against SARS-CoV-2. But the vaccine has not only potential risks, but also potential additional benefits that have not yet been mentioned in the discussions. If possible, everything should be considered for a conscious decision,” emphasizes DGN Secretary General Prof. Dr. Peter Berlit. (advertisement)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.
- German Neurological Society: Flu shot for dementia prevention? – Study generates new hypothesis, (accessed September 12, 2021), German Neurological Society
- Wiemken TL, Salas J, Hoft DF et al: Risk of dementia following influenza vaccination in a large veteran cohort running head: Influenza vaccination and dementia; in: Vaccine, (veröffentlicht: 20.08.2021), Vaccine
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a doctor’s visit.