Drugs that attack the virus behind cold sores could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease after scientists found a link between the two conditions.
Researchers at the University of Manchester found that herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) was a major cause of the protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers. They found the protein plaques in Alzheimer’s disease sufferers’ brains contained the DNA of the cold sore virus.
Their research, published in the Journal of Pathology, suggests HSV1 could be a significant factor in developing the disease.
They also claim Alzheimer’s could be treated by antiviral agents already used to treat cold sores and other conditions caused by the herpes virus.
Professor Ruth Itzhaki, who led the research at the University of Manchester, said: “We suggest that HSV1 enters the brain in the elderly as their immune systems decline and then establishes a dormant infection from which it is repeatedly activated by events such as stress, immunosuppression, and various infections.
“The ensuing active HSV1 infection causes severe damage in brain cells, most of which die and then disintegrate, thereby releasing amyloid aggregates which develop into amyloid plaques after other components of dying cells are deposited on them.”
Copyright Press Association 2008