Influenza vaccination lowers risk of dementia | Health city Berlin

Regular flu shots may protect against dementia. A retrospective study with 120,000 US veterans now provides information. Accordingly, immunization reduced the risk of dementia by 12 percent.

A large study from the US shows that regular Flu shots significantly reduce the risk of dementia. In the study, the medical records of 120,000 veterans were retrospectively evaluated. The former military personnel were on average 75 years old and were not allowed to have a diagnosis of dementia at the start of the study.

The analysis shows: Of those who regularly had themselves vaccinated against the flu, namely at least six times within six and a half years, 12 percent less got one dementia than those who were vaccinated less frequently or who were completely unvaccinated. Other things that influence the risk of dementia were factored out, such as age, ethnicity, gender, family status and insurance status. The frequency of visits to the doctor was also analyzed in order to reduce a possible “early detection bias”.

12 percent fewer people with dementia are an announcement

How is the reduction in the risk of dementia by twelve percent to be assessed? “This effect is not insignificant,” says Professor Dr. Richard Dodel from the German Society for Neurology. With around 330,000 new cases of dementia in Germany every year, regular flu vaccinations could save almost 40,000 people from being diagnosed with dementia every year.

Nevertheless, the dementia expert interprets the results with caution, as it was a retrospective analysis of patient data. “Such association studies are of no evidence,” he says. The observed positive effect of vaccinations on the risk of dementia could ultimately also be due to the fact that people who receive regular vaccinations also live more healthily and thus have a lower risk of illness.

The result can also be explained pathophysiologically

But there are other association studies that could also show a reduction in the risk of dementia through flu vaccinations and further vaccinations. Experimental animal studies have also indicated a connection between vaccinations and a lower risk of dementia. In these studies it could be shown that the immune cells of the brain (microglia) increase after a vaccination and thus the protein beta-amyloid is broken down more. In Alzheimer’s patients, this protein clumps to form plaques, which are associated with the destruction of nerve cells.

Immune cells in the brain become active after the vaccination

The authors of the study justify their hypothesis with this pathophysiological mechanism: The vaccinations lead to an increase in the activity of microglia. They recognize disease-causing substances and waste products and break them down.

So far this is only a hypothesis, but if prospective studies now showed that repeated flu vaccinations have exactly this effect and break down beta-amyloid, “that would be a breakthrough for dementia therapy,” says Richard Dodel. Vaccinations would then have a considerable additional benefit.

Die Studie “Dementia risk following influenza vaccination in a large veteran cohort running head: Influenza vaccination and dementia” ist im August in Journal “Vaccine” erschienen.

Foto: © Adobe Stock/ C Barhorst

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