Statins could help prevent infections in some stroke patients

Stroke patients who take statins early in their treatment could see their risk of contracting an infection while hospitalized reduced 58 percent, according to a new study published in June’s issue of the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases.

That reduced risk is probably not even connected to statin’s traditional uses—study author Douglas L. Weeks from Washington State University controlled for other variables such as diabetes that could have been affected by the lipid-lowering properties of the drug. But statins can also be anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting, which could explain their usefulness in preventing infections.

Weeks looked at 1,612 non-intubated stroke patients to find that 41 percent of the ones who did not take statins developed an infection but only 20 percent of the ones who were exposed to statins got an infection that originated in the hospital.

Importantly, the research showed the statins had this beneficial effect only when given before an infection could take hold—they were only useful as a preventative measure.

"We've been able to establish that if statins are given early, before infection can occur, the risk of infection is substantially reduced,” Weeks said in a statement.

He also cautioned physicians would need more studies with placebo-controlled elements to be sure of the statins’ relationship with preventing infections. And this study only focused on one type stroke called ischemic strokes, which happen after blood vessels leading to the brain are blocked.