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Flu vaccine may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease, study shows

Researchers found people who received at least one flu vaccination were 17% less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease over the course of a lifetime.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2018 file photo, a nurse prepares a flu shot at the Salvation Army in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

HOUSTON — Getting the flu vaccine could be linked to lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study shows.

Researchers identified the connection by looking at 310,000 anonymous patient health records from 600 hospitals during a collaboration between McGovern Medical School and UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics.

They found people who received at least one flu vaccination were 17% less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease over the course of a lifetime, according to researchers at UTHealth in Houston.

The research team also found that more frequent flu vaccinations and receiving them at younger ages were associated with even greater decreases in risk.

“One of our theories of how the flu vaccine may work is that some of the proteins in the flu virus may train the body’s immune response to better protect against Alzheimer’s disease,” Study author Albert Amran said. “Providing people with a flu vaccine may be a safe way to introduce those proteins that could help prepare the body to fight off the disease.”

The team says additional studies in large clinical trials are needed, along with more research to investigate why and how the flu vaccine works in the body to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

“About 5.8 million people in the United States have this disease, so even a small reduction in risk can make a dramatic difference," Amran said.

He is presenting the findings to the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, which is being held virtually this week.

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