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Heart disease patients receive high-dose flu vaccines in new North American study

December 2016

WCH and Peter Munk Cardiac Centre initiated a major study on the prevention of heart and lung-related illness

Flu shotsHeart disease patients began receiving flu shots in Toronto and Boston this season as part of the first large-scale clinical trial in North America to test a high-dose flu vaccine for preventing heart attack, heart failure, stroke or pneumonia.

The study, called the Influenza Vaccine to Effectively Stop Cardio Thoracic Events and Decompensated Heart Failure (INVESTED) trial, is a U.S.-Canadian collaboration started by scientists at WCH and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General Hospital.

Patients with heart disease have a higher risk of heart attack and other complications if they catch the flu. INVESTED will give heart failure patients, or those who have had a heart attack in the previous year, one of two doses of the influenza vaccine. The high-dose vaccine is four times more potent than the standard vaccine. The researchers will track and compare hospital admissions and deaths from heart and lung conditions in each group, to determine which dose protects patients better.

WCRI scientist Dr. Jacob Udell is one of the Canadian Co-Principal Investigators on the trial. “Research has shown that the standard flu vaccine may prevent heart attacks but it does not provide enough of an immune boost or protection for patients with a cardiac condition,” says Dr. Udell, a cardiologist at Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Women’s College Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. “Given that more heart disease patients die as a result of the flu than any other chronic health condition, and that the standard flu vaccine has been found to reduce the risk of heart attack in these patients, perhaps a stronger dose flu vaccine could provide even greater benefit,” he says.

Over the next four flu seasons, some 9,000 patients will be enrolled in INVESTED across 180 clinics and hospitals across North America. The trial is supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Influenza kills about 3,500 Canadians and 36,000 Americans each year.  

This story was modified from our partners at the University Health Network.

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