Study on pneumococcal vaccine impact on heart health

Image courtesy Markus Spiske on flickr Stethoscope

Canberrans are being invited to take part in a new study to find out whether the adult pneumococcal vaccine can help reduce heart attack and stroke.

The Australian National University (ANU) Medical School Canberra Hospital campus is taking part in the study, along with five other sites across the nation.

Chief Investigator Professor Walter Abhayaratna said the study aims to find out if people can use a safe and already approved vaccine to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. 

Research suggests this vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine, may reduce fat deposits in arteries which in turn reduces a person's risk of heart attack or stroke.

"We are seeking those who are at risk of, but have not had, a heart attack or stroke," Professor Abhayaratna said.

Letters are being sent at random to people between 55 and 60 years of age in Canberra, via the Department of Human Services Medicare program, inviting people to take part in the study.

Canberra participants will also have the opportunity to be involved in further studies involved with the broader research project including taking a blood sample, ultrasound imaging and an electrocardiogram.

Professor Abhayaratna, who is Director of the Clinical Trials Unit at The Canberra Hospital, said preliminary studies indicated a 17 per cent reduction in the risk of heart attacks for those who receive the pneumococcal vaccine.

"We now need to test this idea to determine the true cardiovascular effect that the pneumococcal vaccine has," he said.

Nationally, the researchers are hoping to find 6,000 men and women between 55 and 60 years of age to participate in the study.

The study, known as The Australian Study for the Prevention through Immunisation of Cardiovascular Events (AUSPICE) is a collaboration of researchers from five universities and involves six locations across Australia including Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth as well as regional centres in New South Wales.