Can Statins Prevent and Treat Infection?

October 15, 2009

October 15, 2009 (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) – Results from a new meta-analysis suggest that the pleiotropic effects of statins are useful in the treatment and prevention of different infections, including bacteremia, pneumonia, and sepsis [1].

"Our pooled adjusted estimate from observational studies suggests that patients who have infections and are taking statins have a better outcome, including chance of survival," write lead author Dr Imad Tleyjeh (King Fahd Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) and colleagues in the October 12, 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. "Moreover, the pooled adjusted estimate from both prevention and treatment studies suggests that statin use is associated with a lower risk of infections despite the potential quality deficiencies and publication bias."

Previous studies, including research reported by heartwire, have suggested that statins may reduce the risk of infections and infection-related complications. In this analysis, researchers performed a meta-analysis of randomized trials and cohort studies looking at the association between statin use and the risk of infection.

In nine studies that looked at the treatment of infections with statins, the pooled adjusted effect favored the use of the drugs, including effects on end points such as 30-day mortality and 30-mortality due to infection. Similarly, in seven prevention studies, including those in the setting of chronic kidney disease, vascular disease, and the intensive-care unit, treatment with statins reduced the risk of developing an infection.

The exact mechanism behind the observed association is unknown, but it could be attributed to the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effect of the drugs, according to the authors. They caution, however, that randomized, controlled trials are still needed before statins should be adopted in the infection setting. Specifically, they write that statins need to be studied in sepsis patients because liver dysfunction and myositis can occur with the drugs, and these side effects can be dangerous in severe sepsis, where hepatic dysfunction is common.