Developing Alzheimer’s disease is another one of the most common fears that comes with growing older. This devastating illness affects a person’s cognitive abilities and seriously impedes their quality of life. Although Alzheimer’s isn’t always a typical side effect of aging, getting older is the greatest risk factor for the condition. It has been revealed in recent research conducted by Tufts University, nevertheless, that some popular viruses may also trigger Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 6 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease. This figure is anticipated to rise to around 13 million by 2050. The illness kills one in three older individuals, more than any other age-related cause of death (such as prostate or breast cancer). Most Alzheimer’s patients are at least 65 years old.
The scariest aspect of this terrible disease? It may start slowly and go undetected. The symptoms are so mild that they might be mistaken for normal forgetfulness as we get older.
A study published in ScienceDaily and the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease recently discovered that a shingles infection might induce inactive neurological herpes viruses, HSV (herpes simplex virus) and VZV (varicella-zoster virus). This activation of dormant viruses can cause inflammation as well as the formation of proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Professor Dana Cairns, a research associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts’ School of Engineering, “Our findings suggest one path to Alzheimer’s disease, caused by a VZV infection that activates inflammatory signals that prompt HSV reactivation in the brain.” According to Stern Family Professor of Engineering and department chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University’s School of engineering David Kaplan, HSV is linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease through proven data. “While we found a relationship between VZV and HSV-1 activation, it’s conceivable that other inflammatory events in the brain might also reactivate HSV-1 and cause Alzheimer’s disease,” the researchers wrote.
It was Ruth Itzhaki of the University of Oxford who first saw a link between the herpes virus and Alzheimer’s disease. The Kaplan laboratory collaborated on this study. “Some suggested VZV involvement, but we didn’t know what occurred during the viruses’ activities to start the condition,” Itzhaki says. They think they now have evidence that confirms their hypothesis.