Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

(HealthDay News) — Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection might increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, two studies by Swedish researchers suggest. The findings were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

“The identification of a treatable cause of the most common dementia disorder is a breakthrough,” lead researcher Hugo Lövheim, M.D., an associate professor in the department of community medicine and rehabilitation at Umeå University in Sweden, told HealthDay. In one study of 3,432 people followed for an average of 11 years, Lövheim’s team found that having certain antibodies to HSV (anti-HSV IgM) doubled the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In the second study, blood samples were taken from 360 Alzheimer’s patients an average of 9.6 years before being diagnosed with the disease. The researchers compared these with samples taken from people without Alzheimer’s disease. When comparing all of the samples, the researchers found no association between Alzheimer’s and HSV infection. However, when they looked only at people who’d had their blood taken at least 6.6 years prior, there was a significant association between anti-HSV IgG antibodies and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Lövheim said that these studies indicate that the role HSV plays in the development of Alzheimer’s disease is more than a chance association, but instead indicate a causal relationship. “I think a causal relationship is likely, but like all epidemiological studies, there might always be confounders one has not thought about or not measured,” he said. “In a few years we hope we will be able to start clinical studies to investigate whether antiviral drugs might slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

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