Is Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to the Herpes Virus?

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to the Herpes Virus?

Some compelling evidence is provided by new research, showing that the herpes virus, the one causing cold sores, may be linked to Alzheimer’s. The discovery tells us that patients with severe herpes infections had their risk of senile dementia drastically reduced through antiviral drugs.

This comes from a review published in the Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience journal and it raised the exciting prospect of finding a preventive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most devastating disorders in history.

We know that herpes viruses are really resilient as they remain inside our immune cells and neurons all our lives. They reactivate and resurface in blisters when we are affected by illness or stress. Most of us get infected by HSV1 (herpes simplex virus 1) by the time we get old. It could account for more than half of Alzheimer’s disease cases, according to Ruth Itzhaki.

Ms. Itzhaki is an expert in the disease, spending more than 25 years investigating a potential link at England’s University of Manchester. Previously, she showed that HSV1 occur more often in those carrying APOE-ε4. It is a gene variant which confers an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

She said that “our theory is that in APOE-ε4 carriers, reactivation is more frequent or more harmful in HSV1-infected brain cells, which as a result accumulate damage that culminates in development of Alzheimer’s.”

One of the few countries in the world collecting population data to test this theory is Taiwan. Almost all its population, 99.9%, is enrolled in a database which is mined extensively for info on disease and microbial infections. These past two years there were 3 studies published that described this data on the development of senile dementia.

“The striking results include evidence that the risk of senile dementia is much greater in those who are infected with HSV, and that anti-herpes antiviral treatment causes a dramatic decrease in number of those subjects severely affected by HSV1 who later develop dementia”, said Ruth Itzhaki.


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