Study Shows Interaction between Herpes viruses and Alzheimer’s

Beta-amyloid Plaque and Tau Tangles in Alzheimer’s (NIA)

Slow Viruses and Prion Diseases

Researchers have long suspected that there might be a connection between Alzheimer’s disease and microbes like bacteria or viruses. In fact many studies have dealt with this issue beginning in 1952 when a study suggested that a slow virus form of herpes simplex could be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Slow viruses came to be called prion diseases.

Study Shows Interaction between Herpes Viruses and Alzheimer’s Disease

A new study funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) published May 23, 2018 in Neuron Journal shows that human viruses, especially human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A) and human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7) interact in Alzheimer’s pathology in the brains of seniors who died from Alzheimer’s. These viruses are from the Roseolovirus family that are responsible for viruses like the childhood illness roseola. The study was carried out on post-mortem brain samples and compared tissue samples of those who had died from Alzheimer’s disease with tissue samples from normal people. Those that had died from Alzheimer’s had significantly higher associations with the herpes viruses. The researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City, and Arizona State University, Phoenix originally were searching to see if old drugs could somehow offer beneficial treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Shingles is a Childhood Chicken Pox Virus that Later Erupts as Shingles

Viruses can definitely lay dormant in humans long after an illness has passed. A good example of this is the herpes zoster virus that causes shingles. Aging is definitely a factor for contracting shingles, but shingles only can strike at people who had chicken pox as children. The same virus that causes chicken pox in childhood causes shingles in seniors. When chicken pox clears up in childhood, the herpes virus lies dormant for many years in or near the spinal cord. For reasons, unknown, possibly a decline in the immune system in seniors, aging causes them to resurface as a different disease than the original chicken pox. In fact, the older one gets, the greater is the chance to get shingles. Fortunately, there is a shingles vaccine that can protect seniors from getting shingles, as Shingles is a far more serious disease than chicken pox and can affect quality of life. Many are left with post herpetic neuralgia that can last for weeks, months or years after the shingles rash clears up. Please see our blog post from March 2, 2018 to read more about shingles and the new Shingrix shingles vaccine.

More Research Needed to Show if Herpes Viruses are one of the Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

Research will have to investigate if these people whose brains showed an interaction with this family of viruses and Alzheimer’s pathology in the brain actually had the viral diseases usually associated with them like the childhood roseola diseases. At any rate, blood tests can detect these viruses. Perhaps, if this connection is confirmed, an Alzheimer’s vaccine will be developed using the roseola viruses the way the shingles vaccine uses the chicken pox virus.

Results of Study may Lead to a Cure or Preventive Vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease.

While no definite conclusions can be drawn, this study opens up a whole new way to possibly find a treatment or prevention for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that progresses very slowly and leads to memory loss, personality changes and psychological behavior disorders. it destroys a person’s ability to think. Characteristics of AD are beta amyloid plaques in the brain along with tau tangles. There is no known cure although millions of dollars are being invested in research to try to find the cause, a cure or a way of preventing this disease. It is estimated that about five million American seniors are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. It is listed as the 6th cause of death in the United States, but it really may be the third cause of death after heart disease and cancer according to statistics by the National institute of Aging.

Long-Term Skilled Nursing Care

In advanced late state Alzheimer’s dementia, patients are mainly confined to their beds, as the body shuts down. At some point most people with Alzheimer’s will have to go to long-term skilled nursing facilities, as their caregivers and family members can no longer cope with taking care of them. Unfortunately, Medicare does not pay for memory loss except after an Alzheimer’s patient has been at least three days in a hospital and then it is only for 90 days.

Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey

Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey has a state-of-the-art Memory Impaired Care Unit. To read more about memory care please see our blog post from May 29, 2018.


We can only hope that this research will finally bring about a cure or a way of preventing Alzheimer’s disease like a vaccine.

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