Statin drugs reduce infection risk in stroke patients, study says

Most patients given statins saw their risk of infection drop by more than half.

By Stephen Feller

SPOKANE, Wash., June 17 (UPI) -- Stroke patients given cholesterol-lowering drugs have a significantly lower chance of acquiring infection during treatment, according to a study of patients at a medical center in Washington.

Researchers at Washington State University found that when stroke patients were treated with statin drugs the body is better at fighting off infection, and giving the drugs before a patient has an infection lowered the risk of their getting one by more than half.


Statins are used to lower cholesterol, reducing risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as to prevent secondary strokes in patients who have already had one.

Between one-third and half of all stroke patients develop an infection during treatment -- often being caused by bacteria in tubes or catheters -- making the added preventative benefit of statins significant to regaining health.

For the study, published in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, researchers analyzed data on 1,612 stroke patients treated at St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute.

Of the patients, 1,151 were treated with statins and 461 were not, with 20 percent of the statin group developing some type of infection and 41 percent of the non-statin group developing one -- a 58 percent difference in incidence based on drug treatment alone.


The risk for infection was found to apply to men and women, as well as patients with a nasogastric tube and dysphagia, although patients with an endotracheal tube did not see their risk go down, researchers report.

"We've been able to establish that if statins are given early, before infection can occur, the risk of infection is substantially reduced," Dr. Doug Weeks, an adjunct professor at Washington State University's college of medicine and director of research at St. Luke's, said in a press release. "However, this relationship needs to be tested in more rigorous placebo-controlled studies to see if this benefit with statins is maintained."

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