Experts are calling for further research into the possible link between microbes – particularly the type 1 herpes virus, chlamydia bacteria and spirochaete bacteria – after a team of senior scientists suggested that they’re a major cause of dementia.
The scientists’ argument is documented in the latest issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. They note that these viruses and bacteria are most commonly found in the brains of elderly people and that antimicrobial drugs could potentially help saturate the viruses and bacteria, which could slow down the development of dementia.
“We’re saying there’s incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s disease has a dormant microbial component and that this can be woken up by iron dysregulation. Removing this iron will slow down or prevent cognitive degeneration – we can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence,” one of the authors of the study, Professor Douglas Kell of the University of Manchester’s School of Chemistry and the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, said in a statement.
Most of the research on Alzheimer’s focuses on finding treatment to prevent the build-up of amyloid plaques and tau proteins in the brain that block neurons from communicating with one another, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The researchers also argue that microbes typically lie dormant in our blood and tissue, but that they can “wake up” in the aftermath of a stressful event or when the immune system is compromised.
Herpes is known to cause damage to the central nervous system as well as the limbic system in the brain, which controls mood and instinct, and is linked to personality changes and mental degeneration.
Professor Kell said that the damage the viruses and bacteria causes depends on where the viruses are – being present in one area of the brain could cause Alzheimer’s, while Parkinson’s disease could be the result if they’re located in another part of the brain.
“The microbial presence in blood may… play a fundamental role as a causative agent of systemic inflammation, which is a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease,” University of Pretoria scientist Professor Resia Pretorius, also an author on the editorial, was quoted as saying in a Medical Daily report.