The flu vaccine could be the key to preventing heart disease

Scientists have discovered why the flu vaccine reduces the risk of heart disease, and are hoping they can go on to develop a vaccine for the condition as a result.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death around the world, killing around 74,000 people in the UK each year. It’s caused by a fatty build-up in the arteries, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body. Although there are preventative measures, including exercise, eating healthily, and not smoking, there’s no medical way to reduce the risk, and some people are more susceptible than others.

Scientists have known for a while that the flu vaccine dramatically cuts the risk of developing heart disease. In fact, the chance of having a heart disease in the year after the injection is 50% lower than for people who weren’t vaccinated. What scientists didn’t know until recently was why. ‘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,’ says Dr Veljkovic from Institute Vinca at the University of Belgrade.

He led a new study, just published in the journal Vaccine, which shows that the flu vaccine causes the immune system to release antibodies that switch on a range of cell processes, including the production of heart-protective molecules. His team will now use this knowledge to work on developing a new vaccine that protects against heart disease – on purpose this time.

Image via DFID’s Flickr.

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