Age is a risk factor for infection after stroke

Monash University’s Dr Shu Wen Wen was recognised for her research into the risk of bacterial infection after stroke, winning a prestigious poster prize at the World Congress for Microcirculation in Vancouver, Canada last month.

A postdoctoral research fellow in the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases, Dr Wen received the World Congress for Microcirculation Trainee Poster Award for her work that shows the risk of bacterial infection after stroke increases with age.

Stroke is a common and debilitating event that is caused by the sudden obstruction of blood flow to regions of the brain.   Despite its well-recognised primary effects on the brain, a major cause of death after stroke is infection.

Dr Wen said this post-stroke complication is now receiving increased attention due to its significant clinical implications.

“To date, just why stroke patients are particularly prone to infection remains unclear,” Dr Wen said.

“Our research provides evidence that the risk of bacterial infection after stroke increases with age.”

“In particular, we’ve shown that aging can promote the breakdown of gastrointestinal barriers after stroke, allowing for the translocation of bacteria that are normally restricted to the gastrointestinal tract to subsequently spread to other parts of body.”

“This may be a mechanism by which stroke causes infection in the elderly population.”

Dr Wen’s goal is to understand why infection can develop after stroke in some patients, particularly those who are older.

“A better understanding of this will enable more targeted therapeutic approaches for future development,” Dr Wen said.

Dr Wen acknowledges the great mentorship fromDr Connie Wong, as well as the help from all members of the Neuroinflammation Research Group.