Over a four-year period, people who received at least one dose of the flu vaccine – the virus that causes influenza – were 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who were not vaccinated. The conclusion is a new study by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in the US and published in the scientific journal Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
To find the link, the scientists used information available in a database of patients over 65 years of age between September 2009 and August 2019. About 1.9 million individuals who had not previously been diagnosed with cancer were included in the analysis.
At the end of the period, of about 936 thousand who had received at least one influenza vaccine application, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease was 5.1%. On the other hand, among the same number of members who were not vaccinated, the prevalence of disease was 8.5%. In comparison, the risk of developing a neurological problem was 40% higher in the group of people protected from the influenza virus.
“We found that in older adults, influenza vaccination reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease for several years. The strength of this protective effect increased with the number of years a person received the annual influenza vaccine. In other words, the rate of progression of Alzheimer’s disease was lowest among those who received it. Influenza vaccination every year.
The findings come two years after the University of Texas team first identified a possible link between the immune system and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the researchers point out that the mechanisms behind this protective effect have not yet been fully resolved by science.
“Because there is evidence that many vaccines can protect against Alzheimer’s disease, we believe that it is not a specific effect of the influenza vaccine. Instead, we believe that the immune system is complex, and some changes, such as pneumonia, can activate it in ways that make Alzheimer’s disease worse. But, other things that activate the immune system may do it in a different way — a way that protects against disease.
Clearly, we still have more to learn about how to worsen the immune system or improve outcomes in this disease, says study author Paul Schulze, MD, director of the Department of Neurocognitive Disorders at the University of Texas.
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