Health and Medicine for Seniors

Flu Vaccine May Hold Key to Preventing Heart Disease with a Shot

A new study in Vaccine explains how flu vaccines prevent heart attacks

Doctor holding up needle before vaccinationOct. 21, 2014 One of the reasons senior citizens should not hesitate to get a flu shot every year is the added protection it provides against heart attack. Those who get vaccinated are 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack in a year. The potency of this protection has motivated researchers to learn more about what is causing it and how to create a vaccine just to prevent heart disease.

For the first time, this research, published in Vaccine, reveals the molecular mechanism that underpins this phenomenon.

 

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. People can reduce their risk of heart disease by eating healthily, exercising and stopping smoking. However, to date there is no vaccine against heart disease.

Previous clinical findings clearly show that people that receive the seasonal flu vaccine also benefit from its protective effect against heart disease. The exact mechanism underlying this protective effect remained has been unknown.

This new study for the first time reveals this mechanism, showing that the flu vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that switch on certain processes in cells. These processes lead to the production of molecules that protect the heart.

The researchers say that based on the results it may be possible to develop a new vaccine against heart disease.

"Even though the protective effect of the flu vaccine against heart disease has been known for some time, there is very little research out there looking at what causes it. Our proposed mechanism could potentially be harnessed in a vaccine against heart disease, and we plan to investigate this further," said Dr. Veljkovic, Institute Vinca, Belgrade, the lead author of the new study.

The researchers identified a protein called the bradykinin 2 receptor (BKB2R), which is involved in cellular processes that protect the heart. Some of the antibodies the body produces after flu vaccination switch this protein on, therefore protecting against heart disease.

The researchers analyzed 14 flu viruses used in vaccines, and identified four that could be investigated for use in potential heart disease vaccines.

"The rate of administering flu vaccinations is disappointingly low, even in developed countries," added Dr. Veljkovic

"We hope that our results will encourage more people to get vaccinated before the flu season starts."

Source:

The article is "Influenza vaccine as prevention of cardiovascular diseases: Possible molecular mechanism", by Veljko Veljkovic, Sanja Glisic, Nevena Veljkovic, Tijana Bojic, Ursula Dietrich, Vladimir R. Perovic, Alfonso Colombatti (doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.07.007). The article appears in Vaccine, published by Elsevier.

 

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