Causal link between herpes virus infection and Alzheimer’s disease




A potentially viable avenue in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s may have been conferred by epidemiologists in Taiwan, according to a commentary from scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh.

The Taiwanese epidemiologists authored a study, published in Neurotherapeuticsearlier this year, that demonstrated a reduction in the risk of dementia in patients with severe herpes infection who were treated aggressively with antivirals.

Combining this research with two others from different research groups in Taiwan, Professor Rith Itzhaki (University of Manchester) and Professor Richard Lathe (University of Edinburgh) have produced a commentary arguing the case that the research provides the strongest evidence yet that there is a causal link between herpes and Alzheimer’s.

“This article and two others by different research groups in Taiwan provide the first population evidence for a causal link between herpes virus infection and Alzheimer’s disease, a hugely important finding,” said Itzhaki.

With no current effective treatments available for Alzheimer’s, Itzhaki believes that using antivirals, which are safe and easily available, could increase the potential of disease prevention through a vaccination programme in infants.

“Successful treatment by a specific drug, or successful vaccination against the putative microbe, are the only ways to prove that a microbe is the cause of a non- infectious human disease,” Itzhaki continued.

Lathe added: “Not only is the magnitude of the antiviral effect remarkable, but also the fact that — despite the relatively brief duration and the timing of treatment — in most patients severely affected by HSV1 it appeared to prevent the long-term damage in brain that results in Alzheimer’s.”

It was back in the early 90s when it was discovered that in elderly patients infected with the herpes virus it can also be found in the brain, leading to further work during the decade that confirmed a risk of Alzheimer’s in people who have a specified genetic factor.

Itzhaki and her team then went on to show that the herpes virus DNA can be found inside amyloid plaques — a main characteristic of Alzheimer’s. “We suggested that the virus in brain is reactivated by certain events such as stress, immunosuppression and infection/inflammation elsewhere,” she said. “So, we believe the cycle of HSV1 reactivation in the brain eventually causes Alzheimer’s in at least some patients.”


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2 Replies to “Causal link between herpes virus infection and Alzheimer’s disease”

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