The idea that Alzheimer’s disease may be linked to viruses is not particularly new, but this theory has remained rather controversial.
Researchers of a new study find evidence that backs the decades-old theory, opening the door for future researches.
Herpes In Alzheimer’s Patients’ Brains
Millions of people around the world are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, but the disease remains to be a mysterious one. There are a number of theories regarding the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, and one of them is the possibility of the disease’s link to viruses or pathogens, a theory that has been tossed around since the 1950s.
Though this theory is quite controversial even among experts, researchers of a new study may have found the evidence that supports it. In their detailed analysis, researchers examined the postmortem brains of 622 people with Alzheimer’s disease, and 322 brains of people without it, and found two herpes viruses that were abundant in the Alzheimer’s brains.
Specifically, Alzheimer’s brains had up to double the amount of HHV-6A and HHV-7 strains compared to non-Alzheimer’s brains. Moreover, the link between the virus and the disease was found to be rather strong even when compared to samples from people with other types of neurodegenerative diseases.
According to one of the study’s senior authors, Sam Gandy, although viral and genetic causes are often seen separately, it is possible that the viral protein acts as transcription factors that turn on the Alzheimer’s disease genes.
Interestingly, the researchers who made the discovery were not really looking for viruses or viral genes in the brain, but instead were searching for new ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease with currently existing drugs.
Alzheimer’s Research Future
HHV-6A and HHV-7 are actually very common herpes strains that almost everyone over 6 years old has at least one of them. In most cases, though, the virus is latent. This does not suggest that the disease may be contagious, but it does open up the door for more research to look into the possible link between the virus and the disease. For instance, future research may look into detecting when the virus might be in a state or level that could be significant to Alzheimer’s disease.
So far, researchers state that while their findings could lead to future research into potential treatments for the deadly disease, it does not provide any additional information on Alzheimer’s disease risk and susceptibility today.
Further research is needed to understand why Alzheimer’s disease patients have more of the herpes viruses in their brains, and if these viruses even play a part in the onset or progression of the disease. But with the current research’s findings, researchers may one day be able to develop antiviral Alzheimer’s treatments.
The study is published in the journal Neuron.