Elkind's study tracked 1,625 adults from a multi-ethnic community in Manhattan for 7.6 years. During that time, 67 patients suffered a first stroke. Even taking into account other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, Elkind's team found that the majority of the patients tested positive for one or more of the suspected pathogens.
"Each individual infection was positively, though not significantly, associated with stroke risk after adjusting for other risk factors," the researchers wrote. "The infectious burden index was associated with an increased risk of all strokes after adjusting for demographics and risk factors."
It is too early to tell which pathogens contributed to the strokes, to what extent they contributed and how they contributed (through simple exposure or chronic infection), said Elkind. What's more, there may be other pathogens involved that were not included in the study, he added.
It is also too early to make any clinical recommendations. If scientists conclusively determine that pathogens are capable of causing strokes years after people come in contact with them, possible treatments may include wider and longer use of antibiotics, Elkind added.
Dr. Kishore Ranade, a neurologist affiliated with the Mount Kisco Medical Group in New York, said he was impressed with the findings. He suspects that pathogens work with other risk factors to cause strokes.
"Cumulative data have been suggesting that pathogens play a role in heart disease in general," said Ranade. "And what's bad for the heart is bad for the brain."
The National Stroke Association has more on strokes, their ca
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