UTHealth Houston Study: Link to Flu Vaccination

image: A team of researchers, including Paul E. Schulz, MD, found that flu vaccination was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease over a four-year period.
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Credit: UTHealth Houston

According to a new study by UT Health Houston.

Research led by first author Avram S. Bukhbinder, MD, recent alumnus of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, and senior author Paul. E. SchulzMD, Rick McCord Professor of Neurology at McGovern Medical School, compared the risk of Alzheimer’s disease incidence between patients with and without prior influenza vaccination in a large national sample of US adults aged 65 and older .

A beginning on line version of the document detailing the results is available ahead of its publication in the August 2 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“We have found that flu vaccination in older people 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 an annual flu shot – in other words, the rate of development of Alzheimer’s disease was lowest in those who received it regularly. the flu shot every year,” said Bukhbinder, who is still a member of Schulz’s research team in his first year of residency at the Division of Child Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Future research should assess whether influenza vaccination is also associated with the rate of symptom progression in patients who already have Alzheimer’s dementia.”

The study – which comes two years after UTHealth Houston researchers found a possible link between flu vaccine and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease – analyzed a much larger sample than previous research, including 935,887 flu-vaccinated patients and 935,887 unvaccinated patients.

During four-year follow-up appointments, approximately 5.1% of flu-vaccinated patients developed Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, 8.5% of unvaccinated patients had developed Alzheimer’s disease during follow-up.

These results underscore the strong protective effect of the flu vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease, according to Bukhbinder and Schulz. However, the mechanisms underlying this process require further study.

“Since there is evidence that multiple vaccines can protect against Alzheimer’s disease, we believe this is not a specific effect of the flu vaccine,” said Schulz, who is also a professor of Alzheimer’s disease. the Umphrey Family in Neurodegenerative Diseases and Director of Neurocognitive Disorders. McGovern Medical School Center. “Instead, we believe that the immune system is complex and that certain alterations, such as pneumonia, can activate it in a way that worsens Alzheimer’s disease. But other things that activate the immune system may do so in a different way – one that protects against Alzheimer’s disease. Obviously, we have more to learn about how the immune system worsens or improves outcomes in this disease.

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 6 million people living in the United States, with the number of those affected increasing due to the aging of the country’s population. Previous studies have found a decreased risk of dementia associated with previous exposure to various vaccines in adulthood, including those for tetanus, poliomyelitis, and herpes, in addition to the flu vaccine and others. .

Additionally, as time passes since the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine and longer follow-up data becomes available, Bukhbinder said it would be useful to investigate whether there is a similar association between COVID vaccination. -19 and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Co-authors from McGovern Medical School included Omar Hasan, research coordinator in the Department of Neurology and student at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Kamal N. Phelps, fourth-year medical student; Srivathsan Ramesh, PhD, first-year resident in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery; and alumni Albert Amran, MD, and Ryan Coburn, MD. Co-authors from UTHealth Houston School of Biomedical Informatics included Yaobin Ling, graduate research assistant; Xiaoqian Jiang, PhD, Christopher Sarofim Family Professor of Biomedical Computer Science and Engineering; and Yejin Kim, PhD, assistant professor. Qian Xiao, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Disease Control at UTHealth School of Public Health, is also a co-author on the study.

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