Cold Sore Virus Linked to Alzheimer’s

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerNovember 12, 2014

Two new studies show that a common virus that affects the majority of the population may double the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more about the connection and what it may mean for future drug treatment options. 

Herpes Simplex Virus May Double Your Risk

Two recent studies show a strong connection between a common virus called herpes simplex virus and Alzheimer’s. Herpes simplex virus is the virus that causes the common cold sore and affects the majority of the population.

In a study recently published in the journal “Alzheimer’s & Dementia,” researchers say that they found that carriers of the herpes simplex virus doubled a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from Umea University in Sweden took plasma samples from 360 people who had Alzheimer’s and another 360 samples from people who did not have the disease. Those who were carriers of the virus were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. A second study completed in July by the same researchers followed over 3,000 people for over 11 years. That study also found that carriers of the herpes virus were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

A Promising New Approach for Drug Treatments

While the studies only provide proof of a correlation and not causation, more research needs to be done to establish why the connection exists.

However, researchers believe that because the virus never leaves a person and can reactivate intermittently it can affect seniors as their immune systems weaken. The virus can then spread to the brain which, researchers hypothesize, may then contribute to Alzheimer’s. 

Researchers hope that their studies will have an impact on new drug treatments for the disease. Author of both studies and an associate professor of geriatric medicine at Umea University in Sweden, Hugo Lovheim, said:

“Something [that] makes this hypothesis very interesting is that now herpes infection can, in principle, be treated with antiviral agents. Therefore within a few years we hope to be able to start studies in which we will also try treating patients to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Does this research surprise you? Do you have concerns about the connection between this virus and Alzheimer’s? Share your questions with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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