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Statins cut the risk of serious infection

June 11, 2017

The drugs lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting an enzyme that controls how much is produced in the body.

Canadian doctors have discovered that statins act against sepsis, a dangerous condition which is a major cause of deaths in hospital intensive care units.

The Canadian researchers in a study involving data on 69,000 elderly patients, found the drugs cut hospital admissions for sepsis by nearly 20 percent in patients who had been previously been treated for cardiovascular disease.

Dr Donald Redelmeier, of Sunnybrook & Women's Hospital in Ontario, Canada, who headed the research team, says the use of statins in patients older than 65 years old with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) was associated with a 19 percent reduced risk of sepsis.

Sepsis is a serious infection caused by bacteria in the blood or body. It is particularly dangerous in the elderly and critically ill patients and can lead to organ failure and death.

In the study Redelmeier and researchers from the University of Toronto studied data on older patients who had been hospitalized for stroke or heart problems.

It seems that more than 34,000 had been prescribed a statin within 90 days of being discharged from hospital and an equal number had not been given the drugs.

They found that after a two year period, 551 patients who had been taking statins were admitted to hospital for sepsis, compared to 667 patients in the control group.

The researchers are calling for more clinical trials to test the effectiveness of statins against sepsis.

Among the leading statins currently in use, Pfizer's Lipitor, Merck's Zocor and AstraZeneca's Crestor are the top three used.

Along with smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and being overweight or obese, a raised cholesterol level is a risk factor for heart disease, one of the biggest killers in the western world.

Statins are taken by millions of people to reduce levels of LDL the so-called "bad" cholesterol; raised cholesterol level has been shown to reduce the risk of strokes.

Experts say LDL deposits fat in the arteries while HDL, or good cholesterol, carries it away.

French researchers who studied the impact of the drugs on Alzheimer's patients said they may also help to delay the progression of dementia.

The findings are published in The Lancet medical journal.