(HealthDay News) — Exposure to certain infections may cause decline in memory and other cognitive functions, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, held from Feb. 12–14 in San Diego.

Clinton B. Wright, MD, of the University of Miami, and colleagues performed neuropsychological testing in a subsample of participants (588 subjects; mean age, 71 years; 62% female; 70% Hispanic) in the Northern Manhattan Study. Testing was then repeated in 287 subjects an average of six years later. The authors sought to examine the association between infectious burden (IB) and cognitive decline. The IB index was based on exposure to five common infections: Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2.

The researchers found that, after adjustment for demographic variables, IB index was inversely associated with all cognitive domains, including executive function (beta=−0.11; P=0.002), language (beta=−0.07; P=0.04), memory (beta=−0.06; P=0.11), and processing speed (beta=−0.07; P=0.07). After adjustment for baseline performance, demographic factors, and vascular risk factors, the only trend toward significance was found for the association between IB index and memory (beta=−0.09; P=0.07).

“There is no evidence yet that treating these infections is beneficial,” Wright said in a statement. “It would be great if treatment prevented these bad outcomes, but we’re very far away from having that type of evidence.”

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