Study: Cold sores linked to memory loss

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Infections tied to memory loss
Advertisement

The virus that causes cold sores, including other viral or bacterial infections, may be linked to memory loss, according to the results of a study published in the March 26 issue of Neurology. Indeed, if further studies establish such a link, it could potentially be used to help prevent strokes or Alzheimer’s disease.

The study involved a group of 1,625 people from a neighborhood in New York City, some of whom had been exposed to various pathogens like the herpes simplex type 1 virus, which causes cold sores. As a result, not only did those exposed to pathogens have higher levels of infection in the blood, but researchers found they were also more likely to have cognitive problems than those with lower levels of infection in the blood.

"While this association needs to be further studied, the results could lead to ways to identify people at risk of cognitive impairment and eventually lower that risk," said Dr. Mira Katan, author of the study. "For example, exercise and childhood vaccinations against viruses could decrease the risk for memory problems later in life,” she said.

The study was conducted at the Northern Manhattan Study at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, in collaboration with the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. Dr. Katin said results from the study also found a greater link between infections and memory loss among women, those who were less educated – and, most prominently, among non-exercisers.

For the study, researchers tested the thinking and memory of the participants who were 69 years old on average – and lived in one neighborhood located in northern Manhattan. Each of the participants provided blood samples that were tested for five common, low-grade infections, which included three viral infections: 1) oral herpes simplex type 1; 2) genital herpes simplex type 2; and 3) cytomegalovirus – and two common bacterial infections: 1) chlamydia pneumonia, a respiratory infection; and 2) Helicobacter pylori, a stomach infection.

Advertisement

The results found that those who had higher levels of infection, also had a 25 percent increase in their risk of having a low score on a common cognitive test: the Mini-Mental State Examination.

The researchers then followed up with the participants, testing their memory and thinking skills each year over a period of eight years on average. As a result, they found that – over time – infection was not linked with changes in memory and thinking.

"While this association needs to be further studied, the results could lead to ways to identify people at risk of cognitive impairment and eventually lower that risk," Katan said. "For example, exercise and childhood vaccinations against viruses could decrease the risk for memory problems later in life."

The March 26 issue of Neurology included an editorial about the study by Dr. Timo Strandberg and Dr. Allison Aiello, who agreed that there is still much work to be done, but they agree further study is worthwhile.

“Undoubtedly, demonstrating that old-age cognitive diseases, including AD, are slowly progressing diseases of viral etiology would revolutionize the dementia research field and be Nobel Prize-worthy,” they wrote. “However, great challenges remain. Such a study is nevertheless worth doing and the editorialists hope that the study… will stimulate this endeavor.”

SOURCE: Neurology, March 26, 2013 (vol. 80 no. 13 1209-1215). Abstract

Advertisement

Comments

We are fortunate that those studies have already been done! Constantinidis, J.  (1992).  Treatment 0f Alzheimer's disease by zinc compounds. Drug Develop Res, 27, 1-14. Constantinidis found Zinc to be effective in a range of issues such as Frequent and/or severe infections. Sleep and behavioral disturbances, Delayed wound healing. Psychiatric Illness. Inflammatory bowel disease. Impaired glucose tolerance. Malabsorption syndromes. Reduced appetite. Anorexia. Growth retardation. Loss of sense of smell or taste. Delayed sexual maturation. Night blindness. Impotence, infertility .All dermatological disorders. Abnormal menstruation. Dandruff and hair loss. Alcohol and drug abuse. Connective tissue disease. Diuretic usage. Rheumatoid arthritis Murray, Michael T.  (1996).  The Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, CA:  Prima Publishing, p. 186. mentions that Alzheimer's disease may also respond to zinc supplementation.  In one study in which elderly patients with Alzheimer's were given 27 milligrams of zinc daily, improvements in memory, understanding, communication, and social contact were incredible. Mireille Dardenne writes; 'Marginal zinc deficiency and suboptimal zinc status have been observed in several “at risk” population groups, such as the elderly, in both developing and industrialized countries. Adequate zinc supplementation administered to vulnerable individuals could prevent the impairment of the immune system and substantially improve the host’s resistance to infections in these populations. There are numerous articles and research papers on Zinc published. Should we act now or wait for the results of another study?