A VACCINE delivered in an injection or nasal spray to prevent heart attacks could be available in five years.

Scientists have discovered that the drug stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies, which prevent heart disease by stopping fat building up in the arteries. It is the first time that the underlying cause of heart disease has been targeted.

Current treatments focus on using drugs to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure. The vaccine can cut the build up of fat in arteries by up to 70%, according to tests by researchers at Lund University in Sweden. The fatty deposits cause arteries to narrow, meaning the body has to work harder to pump blood, and can lead to a heart attack. Prof Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation medical director, said the vaccine was “very promising”. Different ways of administering the vaccine are being developed and could be licensed within five years, the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology conference at Imperial College London was told. Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest killers in SA.–TL