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Can Fungus Cause Alzheimer's?

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJanuary 18, 2016

A Spanish research team recently conducted a study that provides compelling evidence that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by a fungal infection.

Learn more about the research, its conclusions and implications for future Alzheimer’s studies.

Fungus Found in Brains of People with Alzheimer’s

A Spanish research team conducted a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggesting that an infectious microbe may cause Alzheimer’s. Researchers analyzed the blood vessels and brain tissues of 11 deceased people that died with the disease. They found “several fungal species” in all of the deceased but no evidence of fungus in the 10 Alzheimer’s-free people they examined.

While the study is not conclusive, researchers are encouraged by the study stating:

“The possibility that Alzheimer’s is a fungal disease, or that fungal infection is a risk factor for the disease, opens new perspectives for effective therapy for these patients.”

Can Fungus Cause Alzheimer’s? A Question of Causation

Currently, most researchers believe that Alzheimer’s is caused by brain plaques built up by toxic proteins, but drug trials targeting these plaques have been largely unsuccessful, leaving some to question the relationship.

Researchers believe that the finding of several different fungal species could explain “the diversity observed in the evolution and severity of clinical symptoms in each Alzheimer’s patient.” Additionally, a fungal cause would explain the slow progression of the disease and the inflammation caused by Alzheimer’s, which is a natural response to fungi.

However, it is not clear if the fungal infection is the cause of the disease or if it is a result of living with Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s typically have a weaker immune system which could leave them at an increased risk for a fungal infection.

Researchers were cautious to note that more studies need to be done, stating, “It is evident that clinical trials will be necessary to establish a causal effect of fungal infection of Alzheimer’s. There are at present a number of highly effective antifungal compounds with little toxicity. A combined effort from the pharmaceutical industry and clinicians is needed to design clinical trials to test the possibility that the disease is caused by fungal infection.”

What do you think about the correlation between cognitive decline and fungal infection? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. 

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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