Antiphospholipid antibodies are autoantibodies - rather than fighting a foreign infectious source they're directed against the body's own tissues. They increase the chances of blood clotting, a cause of ischemic stroke.
"Our findings support a modest association between antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) and stroke in young women. Along with other studies, this suggests that aPL may affect stroke risk across age range and in both genders," says lead author Robin L. Brey, M.D., professor of medicine, division of neurology at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Researchers examined stored, frozen blood samples from participants in the Stroke in Young Women study. Participants were ages 15 to 44. Researchers examined the blood from 160 women treated for stroke and 340 women with no history of stroke, to detect two kinds of antiphospholipid antibodies.
Researchers used several different kinds of laboratory tests. One measured the amount of antibody in the patient's blood and the other measured the effect of the antibody in blood-clot formation.
After considering the presence of other major risk factors for stroke, researchers found that women with antiphospholipid antibodies were 1.87 times more likely to have a stroke.
"The two types of antiphospholipid antibodies can be measured in two different ways," she says. "We found that it didn't matter which one you had, leading us to believe that it is important to measure both."
"The importance to doctors is that these antibodies are an independent risk factor for stroke, but the frustration is that we do not have a specific treatment to prevent stroke in this setting."
These antibodies are also associated with recurrent miscarriage and low platelet counts. Women with these problems are also tested for them.
Further research on the risk and benefits of blood-thinning drugs in people with aPL must be performed before a stroke prevention plan can be set in this population, she notes. It's unclear whether blood-thinning drugs or anti-clotting agents should be used.
An accompanying editorial by Stanley Tuhrim, M.D. and Steven R. Levine, M.D., notes that several key questions remain about the role of these antibodies and current data suggest a possible association with stroke risk.
The study was partly funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
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