Herpes Simplex Virus Increases Risk Of Dementia

First Posted: Oct 20, 2014 09:55 AM EDT

Infection of the herpes simplex virus may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Umea University.

Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, has been linked to the also common virus, which can reactivate itself as a mouth ulcer throughout an infected individual's lifetime, more commonly based on a weakened immune system. Furthermore, researchers noted that it can also start the process that results in Alzheimer's disease.

"Our results clearly show that there is a link between infections of herpes simplex virus and the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. This also means that we have new opportunities to develop treatment forms to stop the disease," said Hugo Lövheim, associate professor at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Geriatric Medicine, Umeå University, who is one of the researchers behind the study, in a news release.

Based on the findings of two different studies, researchers confirmed the link in two large epidemiological research items. In one that was based on the Betula project, a study on aging, memory and dementia, they found that a reactivated herpes infection doubled the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The study consisted of 3,432 participants who were followed for 11.3 years on average.

Another study focused on samples donated to the Medical Biobank at Umea University from 360 people with Alzheimer's disease. Samples were taken for an average of 9.6 years. Findings revealed that the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease doubled if the person also carried the herpes virus.

"Something which makes this hypothesis very interesting is that now herpes infection can in principle be treated with antiviral agents. Therefore within a few years we hope to be able to start studies in which we will also try treating patients to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease," Hugo Lövheim concluded.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.

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