What causes Alzheimer’s disease? The answer could be right under our noses, says leading expert Professor Ruth Itzhaki. Her latest paper presents a lifetime of research evidence that the herpes virus responsible for cold sores can also cause Alzheimer’s — and new data which show antiviral drugs drastically reduce risk of senile dementia in patients with severe herpes infections. The review in Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience raises the tantalizing prospect of a simple, effective preventive treatment for one of humanity’s costliest disorders.
Herpes viruses are the dreaded ‘gift that keeps on giving’. They remain lifelong in our neurons and immune cells, reactivating and resurfacing in characteristic blisters when we’re run down by stress or illness. Most people are infected by Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV1) by the time they reach old age.
But what happens to infected neurons in our brain during this reactivation?
“HSV1 could account for 50% or more of Alzheimer’s disease cases,” says Professor Itzhaki, who has spent over 25 years at the University of Manchester investigating a potential link.
HSV1 is better known as the cause of cold sores. Itzhaki has shown previously that cold sores occur more frequently in carriers of APOE-ε4 — a gene variant that confers increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
“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.”
Source: Science Daily