Health

Getting flu jab for six years in a row cuts risk of developing dementia by 14%

Getting flu jab for six years in a row cuts risk of developing dementia by 14%, new study suggests

  • Scientists believe annual jabs gradually strengthen the ageing immune system
  • UK faces an epidemic of Alzheimer’s and dementia due to ageing population
  • There has been no major breakthrough in treating these diseases for decades 
  • Saint Louis University School of Medicine tracked almost 70,000 people
  • They monitored how many had an annual flu vaccine and whether they later developed dementia
  • Little difference over five years but at six years or more, the risk dropped
  • Experts say that there is no evidence catching the flu causes dementia, rather the benefit comes from having the vaccine later in life 


Having the flu vaccine every winter could significantly reduce the risk of dementia, a study suggests.

The jab lowered the chances of developing the incurable condition by 14 per cent.

But it seems to work only when patients have had it for at least six years in a row.

Scientists believe the vaccines – given to almost 30million in England last winter – gradually strengthen the ageing immune system to the point where it can prevent the underlying damage in the brain that causes dementia.

Britain faces an epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia because of an ageing population.

The numbers affected are forecast to jump from around 800,000 currently to more than 1.2million in England and Wales by 2040.

Having the flu vaccine every winter could significantly reduce the risk of dementia, a study suggests. The jab lowered the chances of developing the incurable condition by 14 per cent. Pictured: A woman receives her flu jab in Glasgow on September 24

There has been no major breakthrough in treatment for decades – but now scientists believe vaccines such as the flu jab could play an important part in decreasing the surge in patients.

Researchers from Saint Louis University School of Medicine in the US tracked nearly 70,000 people aged 60 or over. They monitored how many had an annual flu vaccine and whether they subsequently developed dementia.

The findings, published in the journal Vaccine, showed little difference between those who had received no jab and those immunised annually for the previous four or five years. But once they got to six years or more, the risk dropped by an average of 14 per cent. 

There has been no major breakthrough in treatment of Alzheimer's disease and dementia for decades – but now scientists believe vaccines such as the flu jab could play an important part in decreasing the surge in patients [Stock image]

There has been no major breakthrough in treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for decades – but now scientists believe vaccines such as the flu jab could play an important part in decreasing the surge in patients [Stock image]

Scientists said there is no suggestion that catching flu causes dementia. Instead, the benefit comes from having a vaccine later in life.

Animal studies suggest vaccinations such as the one for flu increase the activity of immune system cells in the central nervous system that are responsible for repairing damage that can lead to dementia. 

The researchers said: ‘Flu vaccines could be a cheap, low-risk intervention against dementia.’

Dr Rosa Sancho, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, called the results intriguing, adding: ‘Understanding why this is the case is an important avenue for further research.’

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