Spanish researchers found fungus in the brains of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease (AD), suggesting a valuable link between the two and possibly shedding light on the etiology of the debilitating neurological disorder.

The main objective in AD studies is to determine the exact cause of the disorder in order to identify an effective treatment to stop or reverse the signs and symptoms. Now, experts have uncovered a possible relationship between fungal infections and AD. Experts will be endowed with fresh perspectives in AD treatment research should fungus be deemed a risk factor of the disease.

Previous studies have suggested that AD may be caused by microbial organisms. In this new study, experts were able to prove that tissues from the central nervous system (CNS) of patients with AD have traces of fungal cells.

The five-member team analyzed frozen and paraffin-fixed samples of CNS tissues collated from AD brain donors and control subjects.

The findings of the investigation showed that the brain tissues from all 11 deceased AD patients had more than one fungal species. The 10 subjects in the control group did not have traces of fungi.

Microbes were detected in neurons and extracellular compartments. Aside from the brain sections, the researchers found that fungal macromolecules such as DNA, proteins and polysaccharides were also present in the blood serum of patients diagnosed with AD.

"Collectively, our findings provide compelling evidence for the presence of fungal infection in brains from all AD patients analysed," the authors wrote.

The presence of microbes on the brains of AD patients might have led researchers to name fungi as the cause of the disease. However, it is also possible that these patients are more susceptible to this kind of infective pathogen. AD patients are typically older people with weaker immune responses. They are also more likely to undergo changes in diet and hygiene practices, thus increasing their risk of fungal infections.

Clinical studies are required to verify the impact of fungal infections on AD. Currently, several optimal antifungal compounds are available with minimal toxicity levels. Through the collaboration of pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals, clinical trials to investigate fungal infections' effect on AD may be designed efficiently.

A combined effort from the pharmaceutical industry and clinicians is needed to design clinical trials that can confirm the possibility that AD is caused by fungal infection.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday, Oct 15.

Photo: Gabriel Rocha | Flickr

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