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Does herpes lead to Alzheimer's?
Researchers have found a link between herpes viruses and Alzheimer's disease. Apparently, the herpes virus can be linked to at least half of all Alzheimer's cases. Apparently, if people are infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV), this can significantly increase the risk of developing dementia.
Scientists at the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford found in their current investigation that infection with herpes could increase the risk of developing dementia. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience".
What types of herpes are there?
There are two types of herpes simplex viruses. HSV1, also known as oral herpes, causes cold sores and blisters around the mouth and face. HSV2 is generally responsible for genital herpes. The results of the study suggest that the risk of developing dementia in old age is much greater if those affected are infected with HSV. Antiviral treatment could result in a drastic decrease in HSV1 cases, which in turn lead to dementia, according to the study author Professor Ruth Itzhaki from the University of Manchester.
The evaluated data came from Taiwan
The data for the study came from Taiwan, as 99.9 percent of the people there were recorded in the National Health Insurance Research Database. In 2017 and 2018, a total of three studies were published that used data from Taiwan to investigate the development of age dementia. In addition, data on the treatment of patients with pronounced obvious signs of infection with HSV or the varicella zoster virus (VZV) were also taken into account. It should be emphasized that the results of these studies only applied to severe HSV1 or VZV infections, the study authors explain.
APOE? 4 gene plays an important role
Ideally, physicians would like to study rates of dementia in people with mild HSV1 infection, including labial herpes (cold sores) or mild genital herpes, but such disorders are less well documented. Herpes sores were more common in people with APOE-? 4, a gene variant that increases the risk of Alzheimer's risk. The scientists therefore suspect that reactivation in HSV1-infected brain cells is more frequent or more harmful in people who carry the APOE? 4 gene, which then leads to damage which culminates in the development of Alzheimer's. Viral DNA was found to be very specific in plaques in post-mortem brain tissue in Alzheimer's patients. The main proteins of so-called plaques and tangles also accumulate in HSV1-infected cell cultures, and antiviral drugs can prevent this.
More research is needed
The results of the study suggest that people with a herpes virus infection are more likely to develop dementia, but they don't show a cause-and-effect relationship between herpes and dementia, say the experts at Alzheimer's Society. Herpes remains a hot topic in dementia research because infection in the brain of people with Alzheimer's is more common compared to healthy brains. Further research is now needed to find out whether antiviral drugs can lower the risk of dementia. (as)