Can chronic viral diseases promote the development of Alzheimer’s disease? An Anglo-American study confirms this thesis and thus expands the list of possible causes discussed in science for this most common type of dementia.
Many people know about herpes blisters on the lips. The reason for this is infection with the so-called herpes simplex virus type 1. The second form of herpes is shingles caused by the “varicella zoster virus” (VZV). A study by the universities of Oxford and Manchester in the UK and the University of Massachusetts (USA) suggests that herpes viruses can promote Alzheimer’s disease, although they are the same no It belongs to infectious diseases.
‘Previously neglected but it was an entirely new potential cause’
“The results of this pilot study extend our view of the development of Alzheimer’s disease to include a new, previously neglected but entirely possible cause,” says physician and neuroscientist Michael Oberal, commenting on the study’s findings. Therefore, it is very important to monitor herpes diseases. It is estimated that about 50 percent of all adults carry herpes simplex virus type 1 and 95 percent of all people over the age of 60 carry varicella-zoster virus.
The virus is latent in the body – shingles suddenly explodes
For a long time, this carrier status in relation to herpes viruses was insignificant for most infected people. As the average age increases and the proportion of older adults increases in the overall population, there are also more potential patients whose viruses can be reactivated due to age.
In the case of shingles, the infection does not come from the outside, but from the inside, so to speak, because: today, every person over the age of sixty carries the varicella-zoster virus – after chickenpox, which usually occurs in childhood. This virus can remain dormant in the body for a long time. If there is a temporary decrease in immunity due to age, stress, or disease, this can lead to a reactivation of the virus in the body – and Shingles can break out.
The higher the number of viruses, the stronger the plaque formation in the brain
Because people get older, related viruses come The formation of proteins that form deposits (plaques) in the brain and are jointly responsible for Alzheimer’s diseasean increasingly important role. “Even if we don’t really know yet how these proteins disrupt neuronal function, it is at least clear that the extent of formation and deposition depends on the number and intensity of VZV activations and that the severity of Alzheimer’s disease is very close,” says Dr. Oberal, who is also vice president of the German Society for Pain Medicine. (DGS).
Shingles: Vaccination at an early age can prevent infection
“If this association is also confirmed in clinical studies, the varicella-zoster virus could offer the potential to influence or even significantly prevent the pathway through which Alzheimer’s disease progresses,” says neuroscientist Oberal. live vaccine in childhood to avoid initial infection with VZV; By vaccinating adults with the inactivated vaccine to strengthen the immune system and prevent reactivation of varicella-zoster viruses already in the body.
Vaccination in old age to prevent the spread of shingles
In order to prevent reactivation of varicella-zoster viruses and outbreaks of shingles, the Standing Committee on Immunization (STIKO) recommends shingles vaccination for people over 60 years of age. For people with underlying diseases, this applies already from the age of 50. The costs are now covered by statutory health insurance.
This not only prevents months of nerve pain, which can occur as a major complication in about 30 percent of people infected after the original VZV infection, says Oberal. At the same time, anyone who has been vaccinated can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.