Alzheimer's Disease Linked To Cold Sore Virus

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People who develop cold sores may be at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, according to British researchers who said the herpes virus that causes cold sores is a major cause of the brain protein plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease.

The University of Manchester team found DNA evidence of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 in 90 percent of plaques in Alzheimer's patients' brains, BBC News reported. The findings were published in the Journal of Pathology.

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"We suggest that HSV1 enters the brain in the elderly as their immune systems decline and then establishes a dormant infection from which it is repeatedly activated by events such as stress, immunosuppression, and various infections," said Professor Ruth Itzhaki.

This causes damage to brain cells, which die and disintegrate, releasing the proteins that form the plaques that cause Alzheimer's, the study suggested.

The potential good news in this study is that antiviral drugs used to treat cold sores may also prevent dementia. Itzhaki and colleagues plan to test that theory, BBC News reported.

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