After measles and mumps, fewer heart attacks and strokes - and this is a reason to strengthen vaccinations

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After measles and mumps, fewer heart attacks and strokes - and this is a reason to strengthen vaccinations
After measles and mumps, fewer heart attacks and strokes - and this is a reason to strengthen vaccinations

Those who have had measles and mumps in childhood are less likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes. Based on this, anti-vaccine specialists are promoting another campaign against vaccinations against these diseases on the Internet. We figure out why childhood illness can reduce the likelihood of an adult and why, despite this, it is worth vaccinating children against measles and mumps.

The measles virus as seen by the artist. Pale pink shows a wall of lipids, blue - external proteins, with the help of which the measles virus attaches to human cells / © Wikimedia Commons

In January 2020, a group of anti-vaccination Internet resources - including Facebook and VK-communities - began to vigorously promote a new way of campaigning against vaccinations. They state: “A 2015 study published in the journal Atherosclerosis found that men had 29% fewer heart attacks and 17% fewer strokes if they had measles and mumps as children. The situation is the same with women, albeit to a lesser extent."

As befits anti-vaccination campaigns, they do not give any hyperlinks to the research, which already arouses suspicions. Is everything so good in this scientific work that they do not want to show its text itself? Another question arises: how can this even be? How can childhood illnesses affect the incidence of heart attacks and strokes in adulthood? What is this anti-scientific nonsense and how did it end up in such a reputable scientific journal as Atherosclerosis?

As we will show below, this is not nonsense, but a scientific fact. Another thing is that, as expected, the text of the scientific work itself is more intriguing than its retelling in anti-vaccination campaigns. After reading it, not everyone wants to risk their children so much as not to vaccinate them against measles and mumps.

The mystery of the impact of childhood illnesses on adult life

Fortunately, it is easy to find and read the article you need in the Sci-Hub era: Alexandra Elbakyan, recently declared a “GRU agent”, has indeed made it easier to access the full texts. What does this amazing work say?

The study included data on 103,836 Japanese people aged 40 to 79 years. Scientists tracked the frequency of heart attacks and strokes among them for about a quarter century. All these people passed the time of childhood illness before the introduction of measles and mumps vaccines in Japan. 46 thousand of them had neither measles nor mumps, almost 20 thousand had both, and the rest - either one or the other.


It turned out that for men who had had both measles and mumps, the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases was lower than usual (among those who did not have measles or mumps) by 19%, for women - by 17%. The mortality rate from all cardiovascular diseases in those who had had both measles and mumps in comparison with those who had only measles or only mumps was significantly lower: by 12% for men and 15% for women.

We note that work at Atherosclerosis is based on self-completed questionnaires. Errors are possible in the data they provide. But several thousand cases were excluded from the study due to incomplete information, and in general the quality of the data in the work does not look low. With a high probability, this is approximately how it is.

We will also answer other objections in advance. Figures on reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes in the work are given after taking into account other risk factors for the heart and blood vessels - the average age of people in groups, overweight, alcohol consumption, smoking, and so on. Taking all of these factors into account narrowed the gap slightly between those who had measles and mumps and those who did not.That is, the gap itself looks like a stubborn fact that will have to be explained.

So, those who had measles and mumps are 19% (men) and 17% (women) less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases. In this place, thunder should thunder and buildings collapse: these are numbers of enormous importance. Cardiovascular disease ranks with cancer as the leading cause of death in humans. In 2015, 17.9 million people died from cardiovascular disease. A 17% decrease in the number of heart attacks and strokes would mean a fall in mortality in 2015 by millions annually.

But before you run to infect your children with measles and mumps (which we urge you not to do), you should take a good look around. The first question is: what factor makes the heart and blood vessels of adults who suffered from measles and mumps in childhood so much less "painful"? And the second question: at whose expense is the banquet? Is the price too high to pay? In other words: are there any other differences between those who had and those who did not have these childhood diseases?

How do people who have had measles and mumps differ from those who have not?

Those who had measles and mumps as children, according to work at Atherosclerosis, were very different from the rest. Only 18.4% of these men, according to the questionnaires, had high blood pressure. But among those who did not suffer from these diseases, it was noted in 22, 5% of cases. In women, the picture is similar - high blood pressure in 20.6% of those who were sick and 24.2% among those who did not. Only 6.0% of men who had had measles and mumps had diabetes, and among those who did not have the disease there were 7.4% (for women - 4, 7 and 3, 7%, respectively).


At the same time, the body mass index of the patients was even slightly higher, that is, their more normal blood pressure and rare diabetes are clearly not caused by lower weight. They drank, smoked, walked and played sports with about the same frequency as the rest, that is, these factors also cannot be an explanation.

Stop, the reader will say. But this is a poll. Maybe those who did not suffer from measles and mumps in childhood are simply more suspicious and ascribe to themselves diseases that they did not have? We doubt it. Fact: People with more normal blood pressure are less likely to experience heart attacks and strokes. That is, the pressure data confirm the overall performance figures.

In addition, it may very well be that those who suffered these diseases in childhood should be more suspicious. During the survey, 30, 2% of men with measles and mumps complained of a high level of stress. But among non-ill people - only 20.0% (for women - 24.6% and 17.7%, respectively). Conclusion: those who have recovered from illness, becoming adults, one and a half times more often than ordinary people experience severe stress. And all my life.

Isn't it, it is gradually becoming clear why anti-vaccine users did not want to give their readers a link to a scientific work that they selectively retold? It turns out that people who were ill with something there in childhood experience stress more acutely all their conscious life.

By the way, the mystery of their low mortality from the heart and blood vessels has become even more complicated from this. It is generally accepted that the more a person is exposed to stress, the more often he dies from strokes and heart attacks. But in work it turns out exactly the opposite.

What mechanism can protect the heart and blood vessels of those who have been ill?

Man as a species arose in the course of a very intense struggle with predators, nature, a periodic lack of food, and so on. In today's world, he has practically none of this.

As a result, there is a "slipping of the face without giving a thought": our body is waiting for powerful stress factors, and we, crouching in a cocoon of everyday comfort and not wanting to take serious risks, do not give it anything. What remains for the body? Only take things that do not belong to them as powerful stressors.

This problem arises from childhood. Thousands of years ago, a child would certainly come across "alien" biological molecules - playing on the grass, in contact with pets (then they were not kept in such sterile cleanliness as they are today) and so on.A banal nose shattered in a fight often gave our immune system a taste of a variety of targets for its work.

In this regard, the organism of a modern urban child shows an unusual functioning of the immune system. Among its T-helpers (cells responsible for enhancing the adaptive immune response) there is Th1 and Th2.


The former usually respond to "offenders" such as bacteria and protozoa, enhancing the cellular immune response. The second - on "offenders" such as parasitic worms, enhancing the humoral immune response. When a person grows up with a deficiency of Type 1 offenders, T cellsh1 begins to play a lesser role in it, but the T cellsh2 come to the fore, while increasing the activity of B-lymphocytes.

As a result, the activity level of the latter increases, increasing the risk of allergies: Th2 react as a threat even to harmless antigens, and then redness and rash, and all other typical allergic reactions occur. In addition, a person has regulatory T-lymphocytes, for the adequate development of which "training" is needed. Without getting contact with bacteria, viruses and others at an early age, regulatory T-lymphocytes do not have normal development.

The problem is that the immune system in real life is associated not only with objective processes such as injury, but also with subjective ones: for example, with stress due to some important situation. For example, in 2018, the authors of work at PNAS showed that a person under the stress of simulating job interviews and similar situations quickly showed a pronounced immune response - with signs typical of inflammatory processes.

Only for those who grew up in rural areas and was in contact with farm animals, this immune response lasted for a few minutes, and for their peers who grew up in the city and without pets, it lasted longer and was stronger.

What is the link between the immune response to psychological stress and heart disease, you ask? Oddly enough, straight. The fact is that inflammatory processes increase the risk of heart and vascular problems - and noticeably. It is the work on this topic that the authors from Atherosclerosis for 2015 refer to. Only in the case of measles and mumps, the role of “training” immunity stimuli was played by the virus, and not by antigens from domesticated animals.

The same measles specifically reduces the repertoire of antibodies of the child who has had it, hitting the forces of the body's humoral immune response. Technically, measles suppresses one branch of our immune system, giving it more room for another branch to develop.

By the way, it’s not only about the heart, but also about the head. The same article in PNAS for 2018 believes that such inflammatory reactions due to immunity "undertrained" by immune-regulating microorganisms can lead not only to common, but also to mental illness.

Why antivaccinators are wrong

What follows from this? First, the hints of vaccine fighters about the harm from measles and mumps vaccines should be forgotten like a bad dream. In the work at Atherosclerosis, it is shown that in order to benefit from measles or mumps, vaccinations must not be avoided, but specifically vaccinated.


By the way, depending on the quality of treatment, up to one person in a thousand can die from measles (in fact, we are talking about death from complications from it). Are there many parents who are ready to play a toss with death when the life of their own child is at stake? The same mumps is not particularly harmless: for example, complications may arise after it, leading to testicular dystrophy and male infertility.


It is important to emphasize that the work at Atherosclerosis is not simply not talking about any harm from the anticorrosive vaccine. Its authors even propose to induce an immune response in children, comparable in strength to real measles with the help of a vaccine (new generation). Their only concern is that current vaccines with traces of a weakened measles pathogen can only elicit an insufficiently strong response. Perhaps these vaccines should be strengthened and injected to all children.

The logic is simple. The vaccine has a near-zero chance of killing a child, because measles is extremely weakened in it. The consequences of real measles can - with imperfect medicine - kill up to one child in every thousand. At the same time, if you raise the strength of the weakened version of measles in the vaccine, there are very real chances to drop the incidence of cardiovascular diseases to the same level as in adults who have had real measles.

Let's summarize. Anti-vaccine users, as always, are juggling, looking for what they see as "anti-vaccine facts" in real scientific papers. However, the texts of these works themselves say that this is not at all the case. That the disease of measles and mumps are not useful in themselves - in themselves, they are even harmful, because they pose a decent risk of death - namely, by the immune response that they stimulate in our body.

And the authors of the corresponding scientific work urge in this regard not to stop vaccinations at all or infect children with measles and mumps, but exactly the opposite: to increase the power of anticorrosive vaccines, to strengthen the weakened form of pathogens contained in it.

At the same time, the delusions of vaccine opponents are far from the most interesting here. They have always been wrong and will always be wrong in the future, simply because their views ignore modern scientific advances. And there is nothing new in their delusions.

Really interesting is something else. Cardiovascular diseases, which we used to perceive as the body's "natural" response to the stresses of our time, in fact, largely depend not on the stresses themselves, but on how normal the development of our immune system was in childhood. Perhaps a person can learn a lesson from this and create stronger vaccines that cause the immune system to respond in strength close to the response to real childhood diseases. And if successful, significantly reduce mortality from heart attacks and strokes.

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