ObjectivesMinor infection can trigger adult arterial ischemic stroke (AIS) and is common in childhood. We tested the hypotheses that infection transiently increases risk of AIS in children, regardless of stroke subtype, while vaccination against infection is protective.
MethodsThe Vascular Effects of Infection in Pediatric Stroke study is an international case-control study that prospectively enrolled 355 centrally confirmed cases of AIS (29 days-18 years old) and 354 stroke-free controls. To determine prior exposure to infections and vaccines, we conducted parental interviews and chart review.
ResultsMedian (interquartile range) age was 7.6 years for cases and 9.3 for controls (p = 0.44). Infection in the week prior to stroke, or interview date for controls, was reported in 18% of cases, vs 3% of controls, conferring a 6.3-fold increased risk of AIS (p < 0.0001); upper respiratory infections were most common. Prevalence of preceding infection was similar across stroke subtypes: arteriopathic, cardioembolic, and idiopathic. Use of vasoactive cold medications was similarly low in both groups. Children with some/few/no routine vaccinations were at higher stroke risk than those receiving all or most (odds ratio [OR] 7.3, p = 0.0002). In an age-adjusted multivariate logistic regression model, independent risk factors for AIS included infection in the prior week (OR 6.3, p < 0.0001), undervaccination (OR 8.2, p = 0.0004), black race (compared to white; OR 1.9, p = 0.009), and rural residence (compared to urban; OR 3.0, p = 0.0003).
ConclusionsInfection may act as a trigger for childhood AIS, while routine vaccinations appear protective. Hence, efforts to reduce the spread of common infections might help prevent stroke in children.