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SLU Study Finds Lower Dementia Risk in Adult Patients with Tdap Vaccinations

by Maggie Rotermund on 05/10/2021
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ST. LOUIS - Research from Saint Louis University finds that adult patients who have received a Tdap vaccination have a 42% lower risk for dementia, compared with patients who are not vaccinated.

The study, “Lower Risk for Dementia Following Adult Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccination,” led by Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., professor in family and community medicine at SLU, publishes May 17 in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

SLU School of Medicine

“The magnitude of the effect of Tdap vaccination on delaying dementia is very exciting from the geriatrician’s viewpoint,” said co-author John Morley, M.D., professor of geriatrics at Saint Louis University. “These effects on dementia are more pronounced than any treatments we have available for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Infections have been found to contribute to worsening cognitive impairment and incident dementia.

Several vaccine types, including influenza and herpes zoster vaccination, have been linked to a lower risk for dementia but existing evidence is limited by self-reported vaccination history and inadequate control for healthy adherer bias. Specifically, patients who get vaccinations are more likely to obtain other preventive care and take actions to prevent chronic disease, including dementia.

“These results are very impressive in suggesting that routine vaccinations can significantly reduce the risks of dementia,” said co-author Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and director of the division of infectious diseases, allergy and immunology at SLU. “At this point, the mechanism for this protection is unclear, but could be related to either nonspecific effects that limit brain inflammation or specific immune effects.”

In the study, the authors controlled for the number of well visits, and other confounders, to establish whether Tdap vaccination is associated with lower risk for dementia.

Researchers tested their hypothesis first in Veterans Health Affairs (VHA) cohort and then replicated it in an IBM MarketScan medical claims cohort.

The study looked at whether VHA individuals with an objective history of Tdap vaccination had lower dementia incidence in patients aged 65 and older, controlling for significant confounders. The researchers then determined whether the association differed by age groups (65-69, 70-74 and more than 75 years of age). The analysis was then replicated in the private sector claims data base.

The representative cohort study used de-identified VHA medical record data from 2008-2019. The MarketScan cohort was comprised of de-identified patient data from 2009-2018. The cohorts included patients who had at least three well-visits during the observation period.

Eligible patients were 50 years of age or older on their first well visit and had follow up visits within index dates. For the two years leading up to the index, patients were free of dementia diagnoses, any dementia treatment medications and conditions which lead to cognitive impairment.

After applying eligibility criteria, there were 122,946 eligible VHA patients and 174,053 eligible MarketScan patients.

Researchers controlled for sustained use of anticholinergics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, statins, steroids, antivirals, Metformin and sulfonylurea. Co-morbid physical and psychiatric conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, traumatic brain injury, vitamin B-12 deficiency, depression, anxiety disorders, nicotine dependence and alcohol/drug dependence were defined.

Multiple types of vaccinations are linked to decreased dementia risk, suggesting that these associations are due in part to non-specific effects on inflammation in the body, rather than vaccine-induced pathogen-specific protective effects.

“Appropriate vaccination may be a cost-effective way to either prevent dementia or slow progression of cognitive decline,” Scherrer said.

Prospective studies and clinical trials are needed, Scherrer says, to confirm the conclusion.

Co-authors include Joanne Salas, MPH, of the Department of Family and Community Medicine; Timothy L. Wiemken, Ph.D., of the AHEAD Institute; Christine Jacobs, M.D., Department of Family and Community Medicine; John E. Morley, M.D., Division of Geriatric Medicine at SLU; and Daniel F. Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Internal Medicine and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and the Department of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology.

This research was supported by a Benter Foundation Grant (2020-01), Common Adult Vaccinations and Incident Dementia.

Support for the VA/CMS data is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development, Health Services Research and Development, VA Information Resource Center (Project Numbers SDR02-237 and 98-004). This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital.

Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious diseases.