Is there an Alzheimer’s – microbe link?

A multi-author editorial provides a fresh case for the proposed role of microbes as a cause of dementia.

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A group of 31 scientists and clinicians have written an upcoming editorial for the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease discussing the role of microbes as a cause for dementia, with a particular mention of the herpes virus, chlamydia and spirochaete bacteria. It’s thought that these pathogens could lie dormant in the brain, before undergoing ‘reactivation’ during aging, as the immune system declines, and during stress.

Whilst the authors of this editorial are clearly advocates of the role of microbes, there is still uncertainty in the field, where the ‘mainstream’ view is that dementia is caused by a build-up of proteins in the brain, thus preventing neurons from communicating properly. This editorial is still ‘in press’, yet has already has considerable news coverage, such as Time, The Telegraph, The Week, the Irish Independent, the Medical Press, Western Daily Press and The Yorkshire Post, clearly demonstrating how emotive an issue this is with the public. This, and the controversy within the field, only serves to strengthen the case for continued research into the causes and preventions of this debilitating disease.

Heidi Burdett

Editor, Nature Microbiology