Alzheimer’s Disease and Infection: What You Need to Know

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but relatively little is known about the underlying causes. As a result, we have struggled to come up with treatments, but that might be about to change.

Previously researchers have identified the Amyloid precursor protein (APP) as a potential source for the underlying pathology of Alzheimer’s. The Amaloyd hypothesis states that due to some unknown factors, the body begins to process this protein incorrectly, leading to fragments known as beta-amyloids.

Over time, these sticky beta-amyloids accumulate and begin to form plaques. These plaques disrupt — and eventually destroy — nerve cells, giving rise to the symptoms we associate with Alzheimer’s disease, like loss of memory and cognitive abilities.

But if this hypothesis is true, what triggers the protein build-up that starts the process?

A new study, published this month in the journal “Science Translational Medicine,” indicates that amyloid buildup might be a result of the brain trying to fight infection.

Researchers observed how brain cells react to infection in the lab. They found that amyloids appeared to form as a natural defense mechanism that proved superior to synthetic proteins designed to do the same job.

The researchers theorize that this initial response is a vital one in terms of protecting the brain. However, as we age and become more prone to infection, plaques may disrupt normal brain function.

This research needs to be repeated and verified in wider testing but it opens up some interesting questions.

Researcher Dr Robert Moir of Massachusetts General Hospital explained: “Our findings raise the intriguing possibility that Alzheimer’s pathology may arise when the brain perceives itself to be under attack from invading pathogens, although further study will be required to determine whether or not a bona fide infection is involved.

One of the main reasons why this is so intriguing is that, until now, we have only been able to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. If this research proves accurate and the formation of beta-amyloid plaques is at least partially responsible for the emergence of Alzheimer’s, researchers say we may have a new way to intervene.

Moir adds: “It does appear likely that the inflammatory pathways of the innate immune system could be potential treatment targets. If validated, our data also warrant the need for caution with therapies aimed at totally removing beta-amyloid plaques.”

In terms of the science behind this research and how it fits in with other developing theories, this possible insight into Alzheimer’s isn’t as novel as it might first sound. For instance, researchers have proposed that another degenerative disease — Parkinson’s — may be at least partially stem from an immune response to viral infections such as influenza. This immune response can, over time, change the proteins in our brains, and this may then give rise to nerve cell death.

Obviously, none of these findings translate to real world treatment options right now. However, they do open up a new line of inquiry for researchers. By understanding those mechanisms, there’s a chance at creating treatment options that can prevent  Alzheimer’s plaques. Also, this kind of research may have an impact for other conditions that seem to operate similarly — for example, multiple sclerosis.

So, while this research can’t yet offer us new treatments, it can at the least point to new roads of investigation. For the more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, that is an important step forward.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

67 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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william Miller
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

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Chealen W.
Chealen W2 years ago

.,Please there is a cure for dementia and no one knows. This is my husband’s story... My husband was a retired force man, he had partial stroke 5 years ago, and then i was still working. His condition got worse and he was hospitalized. After some time of treatment he began to behave abnormal, like someone who has lost memory of event and occurrence. i shared tears the very day i walked to him in the hospital and he could not even recognize me. This is am man that is very playful and highly romantic. Each day i hold him to myself and share tears the more. He was not able to do anything just look at me like a bull dog and do so many abnormal things. Later on doctor brought a recent report and he was diagnosed of dementia this doctor says have no cure that he would die a brainless man. Oh my God i fainted when i heard this. I raised my voice and cry to God to help me from this. So i began to hope and trust God to do miracle. My pastor was a great pillar of encouragement to me. i did all i can to get a cure for him, but none worked out, i spent thousands of USD trying to get a cure for him. But behold a friends doctor came visiting and said to me let’s look if herbal remedy can help him get any better so he gave me your website which is www. Drisimhenmhenherbalhome.com there i saw how people testified of the good works of herbs in their life, so i decided to contact the doctor because his contact details was on his website.. The first time i em

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Chealen W.
Chealen W2 years ago

Please there is a cure for dementia and no one knows. This is my husband’s story... My husband was a retired force man, he had partial stroke 5 years ago, and then i was still working. His condition got worse and he was hospitalized. After some time of treatment he began to behave abnormal, like someone who has lost memory of event and occurrence. i shared tears the very day i walked to him in the hospital and he could not even recognize me. This is am man that is very playful and highly romantic. Each day i hold him to myself and share tears the more. He was not able to do anything just look at me like a bull dog and do so many abnormal things. Later on doctor brought a recent report and he was diagnosed of dementia this doctor says have no cure that he would die a brainless man. Oh my God i fainted when i heard this. I raised my voice and cry to God to help me from this. So i began to hope and trust God to do miracle. My pastor was a great pillar of encouragement to me. i did all i can to get a cure for him, but none worked out, i spent thousands of USD trying to get a cure for him. But behold a friends doctor came visiting and said to me let’s look if herbal remedy can help him get any better so he gave me your website which is www. Drisimhenmhenherbalhome.com there i saw how people testified of the good works of herbs in their life, so i decided to contact the doctor because his contact details was on his website.. The first time i emai

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Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe2 years ago

This sounds like the researchers are heading on the right path. I sure hope so. My Mom and so many others have suffered with this horrible disease!!!

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Anne Moran
Anne Moran2 years ago

Infection and inflammation in the body, are the two biggest culprits when it comes down to many diseases... - Mom got pneumonia, and was treated in hospital, where they gave her HEAVY-DUTY antibiotics, which healed her, but also 'plunged' her into dementia within 2 months.. . - So for her,, it wasn't the infection that took her mind, but rather the meds they administered to save her life - [she was 92, with double lung pneumonia...] - She lived almost 3 more years, but they were wracked with frustration for Mom, and for us, whom she didn't recognize anymore... xo

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Cela V.
Cela V2 years ago

tyfs

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Muff-Anne York-Haley

Hopefully with research we can figure this out!

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Alexander Hay-Whitton

Support stem cell research. It's trying to cure this.

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Ruth S.
Ruth S2 years ago

Thanks.

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