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The role of preceding infection as a risk factor for ischaemic stroke was investigated in a case-control study of 54 consecutive patients under 50 years of age with brain infarction and 54 randomly selected controls from the community matched for sex and age. Information about previous illnesses, smoking, consumption of alcohol, and use of drugs was taken. A blood sample was analysed for standard biochemical variables and serum cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglyceride, and fasting blood glucose concentrations determined. Titres of antimicrobial antibodies against various bacteria, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Yersinia, and Salmonella and several viruses were determined. Febrile infection was found in patients during the month before the brain infarction significantly more often than in controls one month before their examination (19 patients v three controls; estimated relative risk 9·0 (95% confidence interval 2·2 to 80·0)). The most common preceding febrile infection was respiratory infection (80%). Infections preceding brain infarction were mostly of bacterial origin based on cultural, serological, and clinical data. In conditional logistic regression analysis for matched pairs the effect of preceding febrile infection remained significant (estimated relative risk 14·5 (95% confidence interval 1·9 to 112·3)) when tested with triglyceride concentration, hypertension, smoking, and preceding intoxication with alcohol.
Although causality cannot be inferred from these data and plausible underlying mechanisms remain undetermined, preceding febrile infection may play an important part in the development of brain infarction in young and middle aged patients.