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Can Infections Trigger a Stroke?

Can Infections Trigger a Stroke?

A study has found fresh evidence of a connection between stroke and infections – especially those in the urinary tract.

Previous research already has connected acute infections with ischemic stroke, which is caused by blocked blood vessels in the brain. But the new study considered a wider range of infections and examined connections with two other types of stroke: intracerebral hemorrhage, from a ruptured blood vessel in the brain; and subarachnoid hemorrhage, from bleeds in the inner lining of the brain. The research was published Thursday in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.

The researchers looked at New York hospital records for skin, urinary tract, blood, abdominal and respiratory infections from 2006 to 2013. They linked each infection type with an increased likelihood of ischemic stroke. The strongest connection was seen with urinary tract infection, which was associated with more than three times the increased risk of ischemic stroke within 30 days of infection. For all infection types, ischemic stroke risk fell as more time passed after an infection.  

For intracerebral hemorrhage, the connection was strongest for urinary tract infection, blood infection and respiratory infection.

Subarachnoid hemorrhage was linked only to respiratory infection.

The findings imply vaccination, antibiotics or anti-clotting treatments could be used to prevent infections and even prevent stroke in high-risk patients, senior study author Dr. Mandip Dhamoon said in a news release.

"Health care providers need to be aware that stroke can be triggered by infections," said Dhamoon, an associate professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

"Our study shows that we need to do more to understand why and how infections are associated with the occurrence of different kinds of stroke, and that will help us to determine what we can do to prevent these types of strokes."

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