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A New Study Suggests that Herpes Viruses Play a Role in Causing Alzheimer’s Disease

Millions of people across the globe are affected by the Alzheimer’s disease but the main cause of the dementia is still unknown. However, one controversial theory asserts that Alzheimer’s may be caused by numerous viruses that affect the brain. A recent study provides evidence that supports this theory.

The study was published today and indicates that researchers discovered that the brains of deceased people who had Alzheimer’s disease had more viruses than brains of people without the disease. In particular, the Alzheimer’s brains had about twice as much of two common herpes virus strains when compared to the non-Alzheimer’s brains.

Dr. Benjamin Readhead, the lead study author says that the theory that viruses play a vital role in the development of Alzheimer’s is an old idea. From as early as the 1950s, people have been making assumptions that pathogens could be the main contributors of the disease.

Readhead and his team of researchers were not looking for the possible viruses but were only seeking to find networks of the brain upon which the current drugs could be repurposed to focus on potential treatments for the disease. The research team assessed up to 1000 postmortem brains of people who had Alzheimer’s disease and those who did not.

The new study indicates that two strains of the herpes virus stood out during the research. The two strains were herpes 6A and herpes 7. It is quite startling to discover that the two strains of herpes were found in the brain. Readhead asserts that almost all people carry the strains because they are infected with them during childhood. However, the only problem that the strains cause is rashes in young kids.

However, since the strains were discovered in both Alzheimer’s brain tissue and non-Alzheimer’s brain tissue, it is quite difficult for the researchers to ascertain that Alzheimer’s disease is primarily caused by the viruses. Thus, Readhead admits that there must be other mechanisms that determine why some people respond differently to the virus.

Still, the viruses play a significant role either as part of the cause or as accelerators to the disease, says Readhead. He also added that the viruses could also not be playing any role at all and are present only for the ride. While determining the role of the viruses, the researches checked to see if either of the virus was affecting the proteins and genes commonly implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

Readhead said that there is a need for more research to determine the extent to which the viruses are involved in causing the disease.