Stroke and Infectious Diseases

Journal Club March 2020: Blackburn et al (2018) Laboratory-confirmed respiratory infections as predictors of hospital admission for myocardial infarction and stroke: Time-series analysis of English data for 2004-2015. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 67(1), 8-17,

Comment: I’ve never asked myself this before, but, as concern about, and infections from, COVID-19 start to spread globally, I wondered: Is there an association between respiratory infections and stroke? I’m certainly not meaning to be alarmist, or cause any offence by even giving this some consideration, but yes, is there any association? Obviously, it’s far, far too early to know if “respiratory infections” includes COVID-19.

Before I tell you about what I found, can I quickly extol the incredible contribution of clinical epidemiologists and biostatisticians at times like these. Together, their expertise maps patterns across populations, with particular focus on cause and effect. When a totally new disease “arrives”, like COVID-19, the role of these experts come to the fore. Without them, we’re unable to map, explore, understand, respond to, and/or learn from, the impact of diseases on our communities, societies and world-wide. Many of my colleagues are clinical epidemiologists and biostatisticians. Their work is mainly viewed within the context of journal publications and conference presentations, but at times like these, we do well to appreciate their significant contribution to our ability to overcome global diseases like COVID-19.

So, back to my question. Blackburn et al (2018) found an association between increases in hospital admissions for respiratory diseases and increases in hospital admissions for stroke, but that association was limited to certain diagnoses and it was only present in the elderly. It will, of course, be some years before we know if this association includes COVID-19 or not.  As always, this is just my humble opinion. Please read this article for yourself before you make up your own mind. To find the abstract, go to Journal Club 2020 and select Stroke and Infections Diseases.

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