Statins could be used against flu

Statins may have a role in stemming a flu pandemic, according to three eminent researchers.

In a letter to The Times this month, David Fedson, a retired professor of medicine at the University of Virginia, Susan Chu, editor of the influenza website fluwilkie.com, and British flu vaccine expert, Peter Dunhill, of University College London, point to a recent study of the virus behind the 1918 flu pandemic. This suggests that many of the 50 million deaths were caused by an extreme host immune response in the form of a cytokine storm.  

A similar response, the scientists say, had been responsible for most of the 148 deaths from H5N1 infections. Statins, they argue, are known to damp down this kind of response and need to be studied in this indication.  

The letter says: ‘By modifying the influenza “cytokine storm”, statins could be life-saving.  

‘The scientific rationale for considering statins for pandemic use is persuasive, but the public health rationale is hugely compelling.’  

Dr Richard Dawood, a London GP who treats journalists travelling to areas infected by avian flu, agreed. He said any research into immuno-modulation is to be welcomed.  

‘The elderly and anyone with a weak immune system were effectively protected against the virus in 1918 because they didn’t suffer this extreme cytokine storm reaction,’ he said. ‘The same has been seen with avian flu. As a result, the whole question of how immuno-suppressant drugs can calm down these immune reactions is a fertile area for research right now.  

‘We need research on new antivirals that attack the infection at source as well as treatments to modulate the immune response. The contribution of statins could be significant but we won’t know until the research has been done.’ 

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Government must halt 'stealth privatisation' of dozens of GP practices, warns Labour

Government must halt 'stealth privatisation' of dozens of GP practices, warns Labour

Labour has urged the government to halt the 'stealth privatisation' of dozens of...

RCGP demands independent review to check for BAME bias in CQC ratings

RCGP demands independent review to check for BAME bias in CQC ratings

CQC inspections on all practices rated 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate' in...

COVID-19 funding for general practice cannot stop in March, GPs warn chancellor

COVID-19 funding for general practice cannot stop in March, GPs warn chancellor

COVID-19 support funding for general practice must be increased and extended beyond...

Plan to freeze pensions lifetime allowance risks 'catastrophic impact' on medical workforce

Plan to freeze pensions lifetime allowance risks 'catastrophic impact' on medical workforce

The BMA has demanded urgent meetings with the Treasury and DHSC amid fears chancellor...

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK are playing a leading role in the largest-ever NHS vaccination...

Pension tax solution for judges shows government could do more for doctors, says BMA

Pension tax solution for judges shows government could do more for doctors, says BMA

Government plans to 'effectively exempt judges from pension tax' show the government...