Pradaxa May Increase Risk and Severity of Viral Infections

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A recently published study by researchers at the University of North Carolina indicates that the blood-thinning drug Pradaxa may increase the risk and severity of certain viral infections, including flu and myocarditis.

Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010 for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm problem, News-Medical reports. The drug reduces clot formation by inhibiting thrombin, the body’s central coagulation activator of the blood clotting system. But the drug may interfere with other processes in the body, according to senior author Nigel Mackman, PhD, director of the McAllister Heart Institute at the University of North Carolina.  “Our findings show that blocking thrombin reduces the innate immune response to viral infection.” Myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart, “is a significant cause of sudden death in children and young adults.”

The researchers treated normal mice with Pradaxa and then studied their response to viral infections. They found that inhibiting thrombin increased cardiac virus load and cardiac injury after viral infection, News-Medical said. The research appears in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

For the past 50 years, the anticoagulant drug warfarin was used to treat patients with atrial fibrillation or those at risk for potentially life-threatening blood clots, News-Medical writes. Mackman said the research group was now trying to determine “if the traditional long term anticoagulant warfarin has the same effect on viral infection or is this specific to the new blood thinner.”