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Posted: March 18, 2008

Quarterly Vaccination May Control Blood Pressure in Future

High blood pressure, long treated with a bevy of pills, may soon be treatable with a quarterly vaccination after a Swiss firm reported early success in testing of just such a treatment.

The vaccination, developed by Cytos Biotechnology in Schlieren, Switzerland, significantly reduced blood pressure in a small group of test subjects for up to four months, the company said, adding that there were no serious side effects.

Cytos, reporting its findings in the British medical journal The Lancet, said it expected that a commercialized version of the vaccine, if proven out in further and larger testing, would need to be administered only three or four times a year.

The testing took place with 72 patients with mild to moderate high blood pressure. Of this group, 48 received a series of there injections over a 12-week period, and the remainder received a placebo injection. Some of the 48 received higher doses of the Cytos vaccine than others.

Two weeks after the last shot, patients who had received a higher vaccine dose averaged a 9-point drop in their systolic (top number) blood pressure compared to those getting a placebo. Meanwhile the bottom number in a blood pressure reading, the diastolic reading, dropped only 4 points, a factor that company scientists said may have been the result of chance.

Overall, when compared to the placebo group, those who received higher vaccine doses saw a reduction of 25 points in the systolic reading and 13 points in the diastolic. These readings were recorded in the early morning, when the risk of stroke is highest.

In their test analysis, the Swiss team found that three injections were needed to bring about a long-term benefit. Still, the benefits tapered off and were reduced by half after 17 weeks, according to the published research report.

While testing was conducted on a limited basis, the results were definitely promising. High blood pressure is a common cause of heart disease and stroke. It can sometimes be controlled by changing diet and increasing exercise, but more often drugs are used.

Currently, there are two problems with high blood pressure drugs, Martin Bachmann, of Cytos, said. "On the one hand, people just don't take them, and, on other hand, the drugs don't work very well early in the morning," said Bachmann, a member of the research team.

More extensive testing is needed before the vaccine could be made available to the public, Bachmann said, adding, "We are moving on to eventually large trials."

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a big problem in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but because there are no symptoms, nearly a third of these people don't know they have it. In fact, many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure, leading to the name of "silent killer" that’s been given to high blood pressure.

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