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Statin drug appears to weaken body’s immune defenses

  [ 77 votes ]   [ 1 Comment ] • March 1, 2010

Simvastatin might help us control our cholesterol, but when it comes to infection it's an entirely different story, says a new research study published Mar 1 in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.(1)

In the research report, scientists from Italy show that simvastatin delivers a one-two punch to the immune system.

• First it impairs the ability of specialized immune cells, called macrophages, to kill pathogens.

• Then, it enhances production of molecules, called cytokines, which trigger and sustain inflammation.

"Statins are key drugs in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease," said Cosima T. Baldari, PhD, a scientist from the Department of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Siena in Siena, Italy, who was involved in the research. "Our understanding of how these drugs affect the immune system should help maximize the benefits of these excellent drugs."

To make this discovery, the researchers conducted experiments using human cells and then followed up by conducting additional experiments in mice. They used human macrophages derived from blood samples of healthy donors and murine (mouse) macrophages. The macrophages were incubated with Staphlococcus aureus, a pathogen commonly found on the skin and in the upper airways. Once the infection manifested, researchers analyzed the bactericidal response of macrophages treated with simvastatin.

Results showed that the treated macrophages were significantly impaired in both the removal of the pathogen and related cell debris and the killing of ingested bacteria compared to untreated cells. Additionally, the treated cells produced higher amounts of cytokines, which are responsible for triggering and sustaining inflammation.

The same experiment was conducted in vivo, using mouse models, with similar results.

"Statins are lifesavers, but there might be room for improvement," said John Wherry, PhD, Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. "Studies like this help pave the way for researchers to develop newer versions of drugs like statins that are more specific for their intended effect increasing the benefits of these pharmaceuticals."

1. Article cited: “Opposite effects of simvastatin on the bactericidal and inflammatory response of macrophages to opsonized S. aureus”
Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology news release, Mar 1, 2010

Please Discuss This Article:   Post a Comment 

Posted by: CWB
Mar 2, 2010
Finally a study saying that statins weaken the immune system comes to light! Yet even here there is a lot of PR spin, making statins sound like a wonder drug. Perhaps they have been for some, but I wonder how many of my fellow PWC/s (I guess we're now PWME's) have been harmed by them as I was. Taking a statin drug contributed significantly to my becoming disabled by ME/CFIDS six years ago. The "side effects" offered in the sales material we sign off on when we pick up a prescription includes "flu-like symptoms," suggesting that the companies have already understood a connection between statins and upregulated viruses in many people. Cholesterol builds strong cell walls. It's weak cell walls that contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction, allowing viruses to easeily spread between cells as well as creating weak cellular metablolism. The body makes 80% of your cholesterol, and only 20% come from dietary sources. If your cholesterol level suddenly (over a period of months, as mine did) rises by 100 points, please seek a variety of medical opinions before embarking on a course of statins. Your body may be gerenrating that cholesterol to protect you. Dr. Paul Cheney conjectured that this spike in cholesterol happens to protect the brain. Dr. Sara Myhill has written about it at some length here. After six years of reading all that I can and seeing a number of specialists, I've come to believe that my cholesterol spiked in an effort to stave off this illness. If I'd only known then, before a year of stronger and stronger statins that dented the cholesterol number but left me disabled. Find a holistic MD who is aware of the labs that assess cardiac risk, inclduing seeing what your cardiac genotype is. It turned out that I'm in the small number of people for whom statin drugs are not very helpful from a cardiac perspective. They were downright harmful when it came to the ME/CFIDS one.
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