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Link between respiratory infection and CV incidents measured

Thursday March 22nd, 2018

A serious respiratory infection is linked to a six times increased risk of a cardiovascular incident, according to the findings of a major UK study.

The findings come from a study of nearly 2,000 people in Scotland who suffered a first myocardial infarction or stroke following a respiratory infection.

The researchers, reporting in the European Respiratory Journal, say the increased risk of myocardial infarction lasts for up to a week – and the risk of stroke stays increased for a month.

The research aimed to link increased risk to specific viruses and bacteria – highlighting the risks associated with flu and pneumonia.

Their findings suggest an additional reason for vaccination against flu and streptococcal pneumoniae, the researchers say.

Researcher Dr Charlotte Warren-Gash, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, said: “For most young, healthy people, the risk of heart attacks and strokes occurring after a respiratory infection is low. This research is particularly relevant for those over the age of 65, as well as people with pre-existing heart diseases, as these groups are at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.

"These groups are already recommended to have vaccinations against influenza and S.pneumoniae - the two bugs we found to be linked to the highest cardiovascular risk - but we know that vaccine uptake is not high among younger people with heart problems.”

She added: “Although flu and pneumonia seem to have the biggest impact, this research also shows that a group of other respiratory viruses had some triggering effects. We don't currently have vaccines for these viruses so further research is needed."

European Respiratory Society president Professor Mina Gaga, of Athens Chest Hospital, Greece, said: "We already know that having a respiratory infection is associated with a temporary increase in the risk of heart attacks in the weeks that follow infection, and there is some evidence that pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations have a protective effect.

"This large study reinforces the importance of making sure patients who are at-risk of heart attacks and strokes, such as people with chronic diseases and those aged over 65, are vaccinated against influenza and pneumonia to help better protect against adverse cardiovascular complications as well as respiratory infection."

Warren-Gash C, Blackburn R, Whitaker H, et al. Laboratory-confirmed respiratory infections as triggers for acute myocardial infarction and stroke: a self-controlled case series analysis of national linked datasets from Scotland. Eur Respir J; in press.

Link: http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/early/2018/02/15/13993003.01794-2017

Tags: Europe | Flu & Viruses | Heart Health | UK News

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