Routine vaccinations may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Routine vaccinations may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Routine Adult Vaccinations May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Recent research from UTHealth Houston has suggested that receiving routine adult vaccinations, including those for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), shingles, and pneumococcus, may be associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. These findings are particularly notable as they offer a practical and accessible way for Alzheimer’s prevention, emphasizing the advantages of routine adult vaccinations [^1^].

Previous research discovered that individuals who received at least one influenza vaccine had a 40% lower probability of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not receive any vaccination. This led researchers to investigate the potential impact of other vaccines on Alzheimer’s risk [^1^].

Scientists from the Neurocognitive Disorders Center at McGovern Medical School in Houston believe that the immune system could play a role in instigating dysfunction in brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease. The findings from the study suggest that vaccination may have a broader impact on the immune system, potentially leading to a reduced risk of developing the disease [^2^].

Whooping Cough Vaccine Shows 30% Lower Risk

To explore the relationship between vaccines and Alzheimer’s risk, the researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study involving patients who were at least 65 years old and dementia-free for two years before an 8-year follow-up period. The study compared two groups of patients: one group vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap/Td), herpes zoster or shingles (HZ), or pneumococcal vaccines, and another group that remained unvaccinated. Propensity score matching was used to ensure the groups were similar [^3^].

The results showed that individuals who received the Tdap/Td vaccine were 30% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those who did not receive the vaccine. Other vaccines, such as the shingles and pneumococcal vaccines, were also associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This reinforces the importance of routine vaccinations for older adults [^3^].

Kristofer Harris, co-first author of the study, highlighted the significance of the findings: “This study goes hand in hand with our previous research, which found that people who received at least one flu vaccine were 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease when compared with those who were not vaccinated” [^3^].

How Vaccines Might Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

There are several potential mechanisms through which vaccines could lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. One possibility is that vaccines alter how the immune system responds to harmful proteins building up in the brain, which is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Vaccines may enhance immune cell functioning, improving their ability to clear these harmful proteins and protect healthy brain cells nearby [^4^].

These findings contribute positively to Alzheimer’s disease prevention research and overall public health, highlighting the importance of vaccination. Dr. David Merrill, a geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Brain Health Center, stated, “Now that three additional vaccines have been shown to have this effect, it suggests that perhaps vaccines are working through some additional shared immune-system mediated mechanism to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” However, Dr. Merrill also pointed out that older adults who receive vaccinations may generally take better care of themselves, which can also impact Alzheimer’s risk. Factors such as blood pressure control, diet, exercise, sleep, and stress levels may change the risk of developing the disease [^5^].

Expert Opinions on Vaccines and Alzheimer’s Risk

Dr. Marshall L. Nash, medical director for the NeuroStudies subnetwork at the Accel Research Sites Network, emphasized that abnormal accumulation of proteins and neuroinflammatory markers are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. He confirmed that decreased exposure to infections known to cause neuroinflammation can reduce the risk of subsequent cognitive impairment. Ongoing trials targeting neuroinflammation aim to slow or reverse cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Nash also mentioned the potential impact of COVID vaccine treatments on cognitive decline research [^6^].

Implications for Patients and the Public

The research conducted by UTHealth Houston emphasizes the important role that vaccinations may play in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The protective effects of vaccines could be attributed to preventing infections, reducing the severity of infections, facilitating the removal of Alzheimer’s disease pathology (e.g., amyloid plaques), and decreasing inflammation in brain cells. Vaccinations offer protection against the diseases they are administered for and have the potential to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease [^7^].

Dr. Merrill emphasizes the importance of getting vaccinated and staying up to date on vaccinations. Not only do vaccines protect against specific diseases, but they may also contribute to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the future [^7^].

In conclusion, recent research suggests that routine adult vaccinations, such as those for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, shingles, and pneumococcus, are associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The immune system’s response to vaccines may have a broader impact on reducing the risk by influencing brain cell function and inflammation. These findings provide valuable insights into Alzheimer’s disease prevention and highlight the importance of vaccinations for older adults in reducing the risk of developing this debilitating condition.