Scientists at the University of Manchester in England report that the herpes virus causing cold sores is a major cause of protein plaques that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.
Prior to the study leading to the findings of such a strong association between the herpes 1 virus (HSV1) and Alzheimer's, the same research group from the University of Manchester showed that the HSV1 infected nerve-like cells in mice depositing the main component of brain plaque in Alzheimer's disease -- beta amyloid.
The results of these studies indicates that HSV1 infections enter the nervous systems and may be dormant for some time. In the elderly the virus may be activated by stress, immunosuppression, and other infections. Once activated, the virus travels to the brain, kills off brain cells that disintegrate, releasing the proteins that form amyloid plaques.
The researchers believe that the cold-sore producing virus is a root cause of Alzheimer's dementia, especially in the presence of a certain genetic factor. New studies will focus on the anti-viral drugs used to combat HSV1 and their possible success in preventing Alzheimer's and/or stopping the progression of the disease.
According to the BBC report, "Most people become infected with HSV1, which then remains dormant in
the facial nerve emerging periodically in 20-40% of those infected to
cause cold sores."
via BBC News, Washington Post
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