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Connections: can the 20th century coronary heart disease epidemic reveal something about the 1918 influenza lethality?

DOI: 10.1590/S0100-879X2006005000192

Keywords: respiratory distress syndrome, autoimmunity, influenza, coronary disease, disease susceptibility, disease outbreaks.

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this essay proposes that the ecologic association shown between the 20th century coronary heart disease epidemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic could shed light on the mechanism associated with the high lethality of the latter. it suggests that an autoimmune interference at the apob-ldl interface could explain both hypercholesterolemia and inflammation (through interference with the cellular metabolism of arachidonic acid). autoimmune inflammation, then, would explain the 1950s-60s acute coronary events (coronary thrombosis upon influenza re-infection) and the respiratory failure seen among young adults in 1918. this hypothesis also argues that the lethality of the 1918 pandemic may have not depended so much on the 1918 virus as on an immune vulnerability to it, possibly resulting from an earlier priming of cohorts born around 1890 by the 1890 influenza pandemic virus.


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