An injection that prevents heart attacks and could be used in place of statins is being hailed as a major breakthrough in medical research.
Early research from a team of Austrian scientists has shown the vaccination can direct the immune system to lower cholesterol levels, much like statins, and could lead to patients ditching their pills for an annual injection instead.
The vaccine has proved to successfully lower cholesterol levels in mice and will soon be trialled on humans for the first time, reports The Independent.
The study was published in the European Society of Cardiology journal.
Statins are the most commonly prescribed medication in Australia, but have been plagued with reports of side effects including liver and muscle damage, causing some patients to deliberately skip their daily dose.
However, with heart disease listed as the country’s number one killer, the medication is vital for millions of Aussies.
The new vaccine, known as AT04A, targets an enzyme that lowers cholesterol in the blood.
The enzyme has been shown to reduce the clearance of low-density lipoprotein – the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol that is largely to blame for blocked arteries – from the blood.
Millions of Australians are living with dangerously high cholesterol levels because of the common Western diet, which is high in saturated fat and sugar.
While some people have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, most are diagnosed due to lifestyle choices.
Experts recommend eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and lean meat and reducing consumption of saturated fat and sugar as well as exercising regularly to control cholesterol levels and promote heart health.