Can Treating Herpes Prevent Alzheimer’s
19 May, 2021
Can treating herpes prevent Alzheimers? According to recent findings, yes. In fact, treating the disease early on can reduce the risk of contracting Alzheimers and diseases like depression. But what does this really mean? Lets take a closer look below.
Many people suffer from sporadic herpes outbreaks, especially around the mouth and mucous membranes. Outbreaks can happen due to changes in weather, sun exposure, contact with an irritating substance, fatigue, stress, or hormonal changes.
Doctors regularly stress the importance of catching and treating illnesses early on, but now we know that this is even more important with herpes after the latest findings that are both surprising and interesting.
Recent evidence suggests that theres a relationship between the herpes virus and the risk of contracting depression and Alzheimers. Consequently, treating herpes is crucial in preventing these diseases.
The Maddening Saga Of How An Alzheimers Cabal Thwarted Progress Toward A Cure For Decades
Several studies have linked HSV-1 and other herpesviruses to Alzheimers, finding, for example, high levels of viral genomes in areas of the brain ravaged by Alzheimers and donated to science. That supported the idea that the brain responds to a viral invasion by producing amyloid, which seems to be antimicrobial but may also destroy synapses.
Active infection may not be a requirement for Alzheimers disease, Kaplan and his colleagues wrote. A history of herpes infection might be sufficient to initiate Alzheimers.
But not in everyone. An estimated two-thirds of people 50 and younger are infected with HSV-1. Although nothing close to that number will develop Alzheimers from a virus or anything else, scientists arent sure what combination of genetics, lifestyle, and other factors determines who will.
The Link Between Alzheimers And Herpes
A growing amount of research has found a clear link between Alzheimers and different strains of herpes. In fact, over 100 research papers have described a correlation between HSV-1 and Alzheimers risk.
Scientists are quick to note, however, that correlation doesnt equal causation. Most of the researchers involved in these tests pose a number of theories about why the two illnesses may be linked.
One of the most recent studies on the subject at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai looked at brain tissue from healthy people and people who had died from the disease to see what differences and similarities they could find. They were surprised to find that the viruses HHV-6A and HHV-7 showed up twice as often in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimers as they did in normal brain tissue. These strains of herpes are extremely common but remain inactive in the brain for decades, so the research suggests their presence plays some role in increasing the risk of Alzheimers.
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The Link Is Confirmed But Not The Details
In the 1990s, scientists studied people who developed cold sores and began to speculate that HSV-1 in the brain, in combination with the inherited presence of the APOEe4 genethe gene that instructs the body how to make the specific protein found in amyloid plaquesignificantly increases the risk of developing Alzheimers disease. Since then, many studies have confirmed a link between HSV-1 and Alzheimers disease, but details as to the exact role of HSV-1 and how it gets into the brain to begin with have remained elusive. Not everyone with HSV-1 develops Alzheimers disease, and a question remains as to whether HSV-1 is a cause of or a reaction to the development of amyloid plaque and subsequent changes in the brain.
Sait A, Angeli C, Doig AJ, Day PJR. Viral involvement in Alzheimers disease. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. March 9, 2021 12: 1049-1060.
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Disparities In The Literature
Ben Readhead, a data scientist at Arizona State University specializing in neurodegenerative diseases who wasnt involved in the new research but has collaborations with two of its coauthors, says he is puzzled by its findings. Hes a coauthor of the 2018 study, which detected an abundance of several viral species, including HHV6, across the brain and linked them to different facets of Alzheimers disease pathology.
I think it is difficult to draw a strong conclusion from this study about whether HHV-6A/B is associated with Alzheimers disease.
Ben Readhead, Arizona State University
Although that study was based on much of the same RNA sequencing data used by Jacobsons group, the two teams report disparate results. Whereas in the RNA data from the Mount Sinai Brain Bank, Readheads team found HHV6A frequencies ranging from 18 percent to 35 percent of samples and HHV6B frequencies between 15 percent and 31 percent, Jacobsons team found HHV6A or HHV6B frequencies ranging from 0 percent to 2.2 percent. Another surprising finding is the absence of reported detection of several other very common, neurotropic viruses within the analysis of the RNA-sequence data sets, Readhead notes in an email. .
M.A. Allnutt et al., Human Herpesvirus 6 detection in Alzheimers disease cases and controls across multiple cohorts, Neuron, doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2019.12.031, 2020.
Katarina Zimmer is a New Yorkbased freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter .
Strong Evidence Links Herpes With Dementia
Study author Professor Ruth Itzhaki, from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, found in previous studies that cold sores caused by HSV1 are more prevalent among people that carry a gene variant called APOE-e4, which may increase a persons risk of developing Alzheimers.
HSV1 could account for 50 percent or more of Alzheimers disease cases, she states.
Our theory is that in APOE-e4 carriers, reactivation is more frequent or more harmful in HSV1-infected brain cells, which as a result accumulate damage that culminates in development of Alzheimers.
Prof. Ruth Itzhaki
For this review, she looked at three recent studies on the relationship between Alzheimers and herpes or chickenpox that analyzed population data from Taiwan, a country which enrolls almost all citizens in the National Health Insurance Research Database.
Because this database is so comprehensive in collecting health data from the Taiwanese population, it has become an important resource for researchers who are interested in examining the relationships between microbial infections and diseases.
Itzhaki says that these studies provide striking evidence that people who have herpes viruses are at a much higher risk of developing senile dementia.
Also, the results of these studies suggest that the use of antiviral medication may result in a dramatic decrease in dementia risk.
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Can Herpesvirus Increase Your Risk For Alzheimers Disease
In the wake of several recent failures of Alzheimers therapies targeting beta-amyloid there is a growing interest in novel ideas on what may cause or accelerate the progression of Alzheimers disease. Since the 1980s, growing evidence has suggested that infection with herpes simplex virus -1 may play a role.
HSV-1 is a member of the herpesvirus family, which includes HSV-1 and HSV-2 , varicella zoster virus , cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus. Although herpesvirus is very common in the general population, many who are infected never develop symptoms. After infection, HSV-1 can evade the immune system and remain latent by hiding in the nervous system. However, in certain conditions, such as stress or when the immune system is suppressed, HSV-1 can reactivate that is replicate, spread, and possibly cause another cold sore. In fact, a high proportion of cognitively healthy elderly individuals and Alzheimers patients have HSV-1 viral DNA in brain tissue after death .
The 11th International Conference on HHV-6 and HHV-7 last month brought together researchers studying human herpesvirus with researchers studying Alzheimers disease to discuss a possible link between the two. The consensus of the meeting was that herpesviruses do not cause Alzheimers disease but may accelerate its progression. However, more work is needed to uncover this connection. Here we review some of the evidence.
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Hsv1 Enters The Brains Of Elderly People As Their Immune System Declines With Age
We discovered in 1991 that in many elderly people HSV1 is also present in the brain. And in 1997 we showed that it confers a strong risk of Alzheimers disease when present in the brain of people who have a specific gene known as APOE4.
The virus can become active in the brain, perhaps repeatedly, and this probably causes cumulative damage. The likelihood of developing Alzheimers disease is 12 times greater for APOE4 carriers who have HSV1 in the brain than for those with neither factor.
Later, we and others found that HSV1 infection of cell cultures causes beta-amyloid and abnormal tau proteins to accumulate. An accumulation of these proteins in the brain is characteristic of Alzheimers disease.
Times of stress may reactivate the herpes virus, and this may eventually lead to long-term brain damage
We believe that HSV1 is a major contributory factor for Alzheimers disease and that it enters the brains of elderly people as their immune system declines with age. It then establishes a latent infection, from which it is reactivated by events such as stress, a reduced immune system and brain inflammation induced by infection by other microbes.
Reactivation leads to direct viral damage in infected cells and to viral-induced inflammation. We suggest that repeated activation causes cumulative damage, leading eventually to Alzheimers disease in people with the APOE4 gene.
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See Herpes Viruses Implicated In Alzheimers Disease
Jacobsons team first used RNA sequencing data to search for viral transcripts. For this, they made use of data that had been obtained from two different repositories: one consisting of 301 postmortem brain samples from the Mount Sinai Brain Bank, the second of 600 brain samples from the Religious Orders Study/Memory and Aging project. Both collections contained brains from both Alzheimers disease patients and healthy controls.
do increase my skepticism of herpes viruses in the brain being a causative agent in the disease.
Tara Spires-Jones, Edinburgh University
The researchers then used an algorithm known as Pathseq, which is designed to plough through large amounts of human sequencing data and pick out microbial sequences, including 118 viruses. Interestingly, this analysis revealed no statistically significant difference in the amount of HHV6A or HHV6B RNA between diseased and healthy brains in either of the two cohorts. For instance, in the Religious Orders group, HHV6A was detected in only one of 173 brains with confirmed Alzheimers disease and one of the 158 age-matched controls. Screens for other viruses, including Epstein-Barr virus and several additional herpesviruses, also showed no significant difference between diseased brains or controls.
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What The Research Says About Herpes And Alzheimers
In the study, the 15 researchers analyzed data from 622 postmortem from a dead body brains of people who once exhibited symptoms of Alzheimer’s, along with brains of people seemingly untouched by this devastating disease. They found nearly two times the level of herpesvirus, HHV-6A and HHV-7, in the Alzheimer’s brains when compared with the “normal” brains. The findings were replicated in two additional independent cohorts, or groups of people, the researchers said.
It’s important to note that because the researchers found viruses in both Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s brains, we can’t assume that herpes infections alone caused the devastating brain disease to develop.
According to a news release, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai “identified previously unknown gene networks that will both offer new testable hypotheses for understanding Alzheimers pathology and reveal novel potential targets for new drugs that may arrest Alzheimer’s disease progression, and could potentially prevent the disease if administered early enough.”
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Antiviral Drug A Possible Cure For Alzheimers Disease
Dr Ruth and her team found surprising result of lower rate of Alzheimers disease among those who received antiviral drugs for their herpes infection, including chicken pox . This points towards the the future possibility of preventing Alzheimers disease with antiviral therapy. However, the effective time, dose, duration and type of antiviral drug for preventing Alzheimers still need further research. Currently, we have no idea about the usefulness of antivirals for people without severe herpes infection as well as those who already have Alzheimers disease.
Could Herpes Virus Help Cause Alzheimer’s
It’s been long known that herpes simplex virus 1 can been found in the brains of elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease, and research has shown that herpes increases Alzheimer’s risk in people genetically predisposed to dementia, said researcher Ruth Itzhaki.
Newer data suggest that treating people with antiviral drugs might actually protect them from dementia, said Itzhaki, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Manchester in England.
“We found that the antiherpes antiviral drug acyclovir blocks HSV1 DNA replication, and reduces levels of beta amyloid and of P-tau caused by HSV1 infection of cell cultures,” Itzhaki said. Beta amyloid plaques and tangles of tau proteins are two of the hallmarks found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
But the effect that herpes may have on the brain is not yet fully understood, and it’s unlikely that the virus alone can explain all cases of Alzheimer’s, said James Hendrix, director of global science initiatives for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Hendrix noted that half of all adults carry the herpes simplex 1 virus.
Herpes simplex virus 1 infects most humans in infancy, and remains dormant within the peripheral nervous system from then on, Itzhaki said. Stress can cause the virus to reactivate and, in some people, cause cold sores.
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Viral Infections Linked To Dementia
Infection With Common Viruses May Increase Dementia Risk
A new study shows that elderly people with evidence of infection with three common viruses — viruses that cause cold sores, genital herpes, and a mono-like illness — were more than twice as likely to suffer from dementia.
Researchers say the study adds new evidence to the theory that inflammation, which is part of the body’s natural response to infection, plays an important role in the development of several health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
What This Research Means For People With Alzheimers
Two Taiwanese studies have already demonstrated ways the link between Alzheimers and herpes can contribute to better treatments. The studies tracked the health of people who had been diagnosed with a version of herpes and found that people who had the virus were more likely to develop Alzheimers in the case of the HSV-1 study, they were 2.5 times more likely.
Notably, in both cases, the people who received treatment for herpes saw their risk drastically decrease. In one study, the decrease was 45% in the other it was an even more impressive 80%.
This initial research shows that anti-herpes and infection drugs appear to have real promise in helping prevent Alzheimers.
Were you aware of the link between Alzheimers and herpes? What about the research were you most surprised to find? Wed like to hear from you in the comments below.
Herpes And Alzheimers: Is There A Relation
Some scientific studies that have researched this question have found that, when present in the brain, the herpes virus can cause swelling, which is one of the risk factors for Alzheimers. The presence of these viruses in the brain can contribute to the generation of senile plaques, which are commonplace in the brains of Alzheimers patients.
In order to better understand the relevance of herpes viruses and brain diseases, scientists examined the use of antimicrobial and antiviral drugs in treating Alzheimers. In this study, researchers found that people who used antiviral medication to treat herpes reduced the risk of contracting dementia in the future by up to 50%.
Moreover, the longer patients took antivirals , the more protected they were from dementia. These findings open the door to new studies that might help improve the way we treat Alzheimers.