Researchers have found that statins, used to reduce cholesterol could help lower the risk of severe bacterial infections such as pneumonia and sepsis.

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, found that phagocytes or white blood cells that kill and ingest harmful bacteria were effective when exposed to statins. They also found that the bacteria did not increase in specialized white blood cells when statins were effective in killing bacteria.

Statins are among the most prescribed medication globally. Around 30 million Americans take statins.

"Clinical research indicates that perhaps 100 million Americans have elevated cholesterol levels that could benefit from statin therapy," said Christopher Glass, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and cellular & molecular medicine. "Thus any statin-associated changes to immune system function are certain to impact millions of people."

The research led by Victor Nizet, MD, professor of pediatrics and pharmacy is published in the Cell Host and Microbe. Tests were conducted on Mice to find effectiveness of statins against bacterial infections.

"We found these drugs fundamentally alter how white blood cells behave upon encountering bacteria," Nizet said. "In our studies with staph bacteria, the net effect of statin treatment was to improve bacterial killing and extracellular trap formation. These same changes might not be so consequential for defense against less virulent bacteria that are easily susceptible to uptake and killing within phagocytes."