Modifying the immune system of heart failure patients could cut their risk of death and hospitalisation for a cardiac event, suggest US research findings.
Non-specific immunomodulation therapy (IMT) was shown to benefit patients who had no history of a previous MI or who had mild heart failure defined as suffering fatigue, palpitation or dyspnoea on physical exertion.
For the study, 2,426 patients with heart failure were randomly assigned to IMT or placebo on days one, two and 14, and every 28 days thereafter. All patients were treated for a minimum of 22 weeks.
For IMT, a venous blood sample is taken from the patient and exposed to oxidative stress. Once injected back into the patient, apoptosis of leukocytes is triggered, which in turn leads to a reduction in inflammatory cytokines and an increase in non-inflammatory cytokines.
The key to the theory behind this technique is that inflammation associated with heart failure has been linked to both aspects of the cytokine network.
Analysis of an average 10 months' follow-up showed that for patients with no previous MI, IMT reduced these end points by 26 per cent.
The reduction was 36 per cent in those with mild heart failure.
Professor Mike Kirby, member of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society, said: 'It sounds interesting and like a good avenue for future research.'