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Thursday 27th October 2016

Cold sore link to Alzheimer's

8th December 2008

Scientists at the University of Manchester have made a connection between catching cold sores and a heightened danger of Alzheimer's disease.


The team found that the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 which causes cold sores is a significant factor in the "protein plaques" that gather in the brain of a person with the condition.

The findings, which appear in the journal of Pathology, could be used to develop treatments for the disease based on antiviral medication.

Professor Ruth Itzhaki and her team found HSV1 in 90% of the protein plaques in the brains of patients with dementia.

Previous experiments by the team on mice had shown that if a mouse's nerve cells were infected with HSV1 then deposits of beta amyloid (the major ingredient of the plaque) occurred.

Professor Itzhaki said: "We suggest that HSV1 enters the brain in the elderly as their immune systems decline and then establishes a dormant infection from which it is repeatedly activated by events such as stress, immunosuppression, and various infections."

The death of the damaged brain cells releases the proteins which form the plaques, she added.

Professor Clive Ballard of the Alzheimer's Society said: "Although the new research provides some additional evidence supporting a link between the herpes virus and Alzheimer's disease there is still uncertainty around whether this is a promising avenue of research."


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