A groundbreaking investigation led by a team from the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston has revealed a potentially significant connection between adult vaccinations and a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, bringing hope for more than 6 million Americans diagnosed with this condition. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease recently presented a pre-press version of this study online, showcasing the team’s compelling findings.

Co-first authors Kristofer Harris, program manager in the Department of Neurology at UTHealth Houston; Yaobin Ling, graduate research assistant with McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics; and Avram Bukhbinder, MD, a distinguished alumnus of the medical school, spearheaded this research. Senior author Paul E. Schulz, MD, the Rick McCord Professor in Neurology with McGovern Medical School, provided his expertise to unravel this promising correlation.

Just a year after a pivotal study by Schulz’s team, which found a 40% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk for those receiving at least one influenza vaccine, this new investigation delves deeper into the connection between adult vaccinations and Alzheimer’s risk. Schulz suggests that the immune system’s broader effect, influenced by vaccinations, may play a role in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study, analyzing patients aged at least 65 with no signs of dementia for the past two years at the beginning of an eight-year observation period. By comparing vaccinated and non-vaccinated groups with various vaccines, they determined relative and absolute risk reductions for Alzheimer’s.

Leveraging large datasets and advanced data models, the researchers gained valuable insights. Those vaccinated with the Tdap/Td vaccine exhibited a 30% lower likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, while HZ and pneumococcal vaccines demonstrated a 25% and 27% reduced Alzheimer’s risk, respectively. These numbers, Schulz notes, surpass the impact of recently introduced anti-amyloid antibodies in Alzheimer’s treatments.

Bukhbinder proposed mechanisms explaining these observations, suggesting that vaccines might alter how the immune system responds to toxic proteins contributing to Alzheimer’s. Emphasizing the importance of routine vaccinations, Harris stated that these findings are a win for both Alzheimer’s prevention research and public health.

The collaborative effort involved various experts, including Kamal Phelps, MD; Gabriela Cruz; Jenna Thomas; Luyao Chen, MS; Yejin Kim, PhD; and Xiaoqian Jiang, PhD. As our understanding of Alzheimer’s advances, this research not only underscores the importance of adult vaccinations for overall health but also opens a promising avenue for future Alzheimer’s research.

By Impact Lab