Scientists have identified a key protein which they believe may be the reason why flu vaccines reduce the risk of heart attack associated with the influenza season.
Researchers analysed 14 strains of the influenza virus which are used in vaccinations to try and uncover the molecular reason why the flu jab can guard against cardiovascular disease.
Using computer modelling the team predicts that antibodies produced by the influenza vaccine could activate a protein - the bradykinin 2 receptor – which has been shown to protect the heart under certain conditions.
Heart patients are particularly vulnerable to the flu, in part because the virus can cause inflammation, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Dr Shannon Amoils, our Senior Research Advisor, said: “We know that heart attacks happen more often during or immediately after influenza virus infection, and that the flu vaccine decreases this risk. However, we don’t know exactly how influenza vaccination protects people against having a heart attack.
“The findings of this study are interesting, but more research is needed beyond computer modelling to take these findings into research in the laboratory.
“The most likely reason for the protective effect of the flu vaccine is the avoidance of the influenza illness itself.”