What does a cold sore have in common with Alzheimer’s? No, it’s not a joke.
New research, published in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience provides evidence that at least half of Alzheimer’s cases are linked to the same virus that causes cold sores: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1). Moreover, treating people suffering from severe cases of herpes can actually reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The herpes virus is common, and most people have contracted it by age 70. Once people are infected, the virus stays in their body — though it may be dormant. The virus might become active — causing cold sores — when the person is under stress.
Although the research merely links herpes and Alzheimer’s, and does not demonstrate that HSV1 causes Alzheimer’s, Dr. Ruth F. Itzhaki, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford and author of the study, points out that there are over 150 publications that “strongly support an HSV1 role” in Alzheimer’s disease, and that using anti-herpes antivirals to treat Alzheimer’s is already justified.
The “viral concept” of Alzheimer’s, according to Dr. Itzhaki’s research over the past twenty years, suggests that when HSV1 affects people who are carriers of a specific gene — the apolipoprotein E gene — it increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. She estimates that approximately 60% of all Alzheimer’s cases occur in people who carry the apolipoprotein E gene and were exposed to HSV1.
The virus is thought to travel to the brain during middle age, where it remains dormant until it is activated by such events as reduced immunity, infection, and inflammation. The damage caused by the virus leads, over time, to the development of Alzheimer’s.
Whether anti-herpes antivirals will indeed be approved to treat Alzheimer’s remains to be seen; however we at Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, are already experts in handling Alzheimer’s and dementias.
We have created a unique environment and care program specifically designed to address the needs of this population. Our Alzheimer’s Unit is situated in a separate, secure wing to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents. It offers a structured daily routine, mind-stimulating activities, excellent social interaction, with optimal patient independence in a calm and soothing atmosphere.
Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 609-588-5800 or by clicking here.