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Influence of blood pressure on pneumonia risk: Epidemiological association and Mendelian randomisation in the UK Biobank

By Seyedeh Maryam Zekavat, Michael C. Honigberg, James Pirruccello, Puja Kohli, Elizabeth W. Karlson, Christopher Newton-Cheh, Hongyu Zhao, Pradeep Natarajan

Posted 23 Apr 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.19.20071936

Objectives: To determine whether elevated blood pressure influences risk for respiratory infection. Design: Prospective, population-based epidemiological and Mendelian randomisation studies. Setting: UK Biobank. Participants: 377,143 self-identified British descent (54% women; median age 58 years) participants in the UK Biobank. Main outcome measures: First incident pneumonia over an average of 8 follow-up years. Results: 107,310 (30%) participants had hypertension at UK Biobank enrolment, and 9,969 (3%) developed a pneumonia during follow-up. Prevalent hypertension at baseline was significantly associated with increased risk for incident respiratory disease including pneumonia (hazard ratio 1.36 (95% confidence interval 1.29 to 1.43), P<0.001), acute respiratory distress syndrome or respiratory failure (1.43 (1.29 to 1.59), P<0.001), and chronic lower respiratory disease (1.30 (1.25 to 1.36), P<0.001), independent of age, age2, sex, smoking status, BMI, prevalent diabetes mellitus, prevalent coronary artery disease, and principal components of ancestry. Mendelian randomisation analyses indicated that genetic predisposition to a 5 mmHg increase in blood pressure was associated with increased risk of incident pneumonia for SBP (1.08, (1.04 to 1.13), P<0.001) and DBP (1.11 (1.03 to 1.20), P=0.005). Additionally, consistent with epidemiologic associations, increase in blood pressure genetic risk was significantly associated with reduced forced expiratory volume in the first second, forced vital capacity, and the ratio of the two (P<0.001 for all). Conclusions: These results strongly suggest that elevated blood pressure independently increases risk for pneumonia and reduces pulmonary function. Maintaining adequate blood pressure control, in addition to other measures, may reduce risk for pneumonia. Whether the present findings are generalizable to novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) require further study.

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