Health Care

Herpes virus may have a connection to Alzheimer’s disease

Herpes virus may have a connection to Alzheimer’s disease”

"The hypothesis that viruses play a role in brain disease is not new, but for the first time a study provides strong evidence of this", said the director of the National Institute on Aging Richard Choounts.

In the extensive multicenter study that involved sophisticated "big data" genetic analysis, researchers, didn't expect to find a possible role for human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and human herpesvirus 7 HHV-7), which are known to cause encephalitis and other chronic conditions.

But that the Herpes viruses might generate a response in the immune system which in turn might increase the collection of a protein called "amyloid" in the brain.

The results, based on tests of brain tissue from almost 1,000 people, found that two strains of herpes virus were far more abundant in the brains of those with early-stage Alzheimer's than in healthy controls.

Scientists have found up to two times higher level of human herpes virus among people with Alzheimer's disease, suggesting the potential role of the viruses in the development of the progressive brain disorder.

"Previous studies of viruses and Alzheimer's have always been very indirect". HSV-1 for example - one that causes cold sores - has been studied in neurodegenerative diseases.

"Our hypothesis is that they put gas on the flame", Joel Dudley, an author of the study and an associate professor of genetics and genomic sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City, told NPR. Presence of these antibodies indicated the encounters of the person with this virus sometime during their lives.

Ben Readhead, the study's lead author said that the goal of the study was to find ways to understand the disease and treat it better. "The title of the talk that I usually give is, 'I Went Looking for Drug Targets, and All I found Were These Lousy Viruses, ' " he said. "None of them has held up after rigorous cause-effect evaluations".

They found that the virus genes were "talking" to genes in the brain associated with increasing one's risk of Alzheimer's. In 2018, the costs of providing care to individuals with Alzheimer's and other dementias are expected to total more than $277 billion. This was an accidental finding. Identifying links to viruses may help researchers learn more about the complicated biological interactions involved in Alzheimer's, and potentially lead to new treatment strategies. The viruses remain dormant however within the body.

"I don't think we can answer whether herpes viruses are a primary cause of Alzheimer's disease", said Dudley. Gandy also said these findings could open new avenues of research for treatment of the disease but at present risk susceptibility for the disease is still not clearly understood.

Cambridge University academic Dr Alan Howard – who was said to have pioneered the study – said: “This represents one of the most important medical advancements of the century.



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