Seniors’ Health: Blood pressure vaccine may be an alternative to pills

Injection stimulates the immune system to target a molecule responsible for blood vessel constriction

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A novel vaccine against high blood pressure has proven safe and effective in early studies and may one day provide an alternative to daily medications.

Researcher Dr. Juerg Nussberger of the University Hospital of the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland says there are many effective drugs to treat high blood pressure, or hypertension, but people don’t always take their pills as directed. And conventional drugs may do little to control blood pressure in the early morning, when it tends to be highest. “We still only control blood pressure in a maximum of 25 per cent of patients,” Nussberger says.

In their pursuit of alternative treatments, Nussberger and his colleagues are studying a protein that stimulates the body’s own immune system to attack angiotensin II, a molecule responsible for blood vessel constriction and hypertension. Conventional medications target angiotensin II indirectly, by slowing its creation or blocking its effects.

The study involved 72 people with mild to moderate hypertension who received low or high doses of the vaccine or an inactive injection, given at the beginning of the study and after four and 12 weeks.

After 14 weeks, patients in the high-dose group had significantly lower blood pressure than participants who had received the inactive injections. Moreover, the vaccine’s effects were particularly pronounced between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., when blood pressure is typically more difficult to control.

Nussberger says the study indicates the vaccine is safe, and future studies will be needed to determine the best dose and injection schedule.