New study links lack of immunization to risk of pediatric stroke

A recent study conducted by researchers of the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center found an increase in risk of pediatric stroke among children that did not have routine vaccinations.

"The protective association of routine vaccination against childhood stroke provides a widely available means of prevention, and this information can easily be dispersed by pediatric healthcare providers," Nancy Hills, the lead researcher and assistant professor of neurology at the UCSF Medical Center, said.

The study, titled "Vascular effects of Infection in Pediatric Stroke," was presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference recently and showed a correlation between common infections and ischemic stroke, the most common form of stroke caused by blood clots leading to the brain.

The research team interviewed the parents and guardians of 310 children who had previously experienced a pediatric stroke. The team found that children who experienced common infections, such as the common cold or upper respiratory infection, had an increased risk of stroke by a factor of six.

When researchers took their study one step further, the team found that children with "some, few or no" history of routine vaccinations were 6.7 times more likely of falling victim to pediatric ischemic stroke than children who received "all or most" of their routine vaccines, which can include vaccines against mumps, rubella, measles, pneumococcus and polio.

"Because many childhood strokes appear to have no clear cause, and others likely have more than one cause, preventive measures have not been forthcoming," Hills said. "It is very promising that childhood vaccinations appear to have a protective effect."

The study was the largest NIH-funded study of pediatric stroke ever conducted and was a collaborative effort between international partners.